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Normalizing relations with Israel is in Pakistan's interest

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A visit by an interfaith delegation of Pakistanis to Israel revived the speculation of normalizing relations between the two countries.

The visit received added attention because the group met with Israel's President Isaac Herzog, who described the meeting as "an amazing experience." He even linked it to the Abraham Accords.

As we know, the Trump administration brokered the Abraham Accords in 2020 amid much fanfare. The primary intent of the Accords was to encourage the normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world through business and security alliances.

Critics saw the Abraham Accords as a self-serving exercise to advance the political interests of former leaders Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. The Accords did not address the democracy deficit in the Middle East or provide a roadmap to resolve the Palestinian dispute seen as crucial to peace and security in the region.

It is slow going as only the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan have so far joined. The idea of increasing the list for normalization to include other Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan seems overly optimistic.

But the visit offers an opportunity to take a realistic view of Pakistan's limited foreign policy options. Despite severe domestic constraints, diplomatic ties with Israel are in the national interests of Pakistan.

Pakistan is facing the worst economic crisis since its inception, with potential sovereign default on the horizon. It needs the urgent support of the United States for continued IMF-led funding and removal from the anti-money laundering watchdog's grey list.

The US leadership, Congress, and the powerful pro-Israel lobby could support the resumption of financial assistance to Pakistan as an incentive if it agrees to normalize ties with Israel. US aid to Pakistan has taken a severe hit with the deterioration of the long-standing bilateral relationship.

Diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Israel are a chance to establish a mutually beneficial economic and trading relationship. For example, Pakistan can benefit from Israel's high-tech water conservation program.

Furthermore, if rumors are true, Pakistan's primary backer Saudi Arabia is in the final stage of negotiations to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. It is waiting for President Joe Biden's upcoming trip to the region to sign on the dotted line.

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Saad Hafiz is an analyst and commentator.

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