Monday, June 30, 2003

Pervez Musharraf has been making noises about establishing diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Israel, to the chagrin of many in Pakistan. Zack Ajmal places this in the context of Pakistan's conflict with India, which has been developing military ties with Israel. Jonathan Edelstein looks at the overall relationship between Israel and the Muslim world, mentioning trade contacts and recent conciliatory noises about Israel coming from Bahrain. Middle East Online has a story mentioning similar developments in Qatar. As far as the Arab world is concerned, this seems to continue policy trends which go back at least to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's peace initiative from Spring 2002. Much of the Muslim world seems to want the Palestinian issue to go away, something also seen in Egypt's active involvement in trying to shepherd forward the "Road Map" through security chief Omar Suleyman's constant shuttling among Palestinian factions.

I don't know the reasons for all this, but I wonder if they might be economic. Most Arab economies are struggling, and some might see gaining access to Israeli markets or possibly becoming home to Israeli-owned factories as a potential boost. In addition, Gulf states which are trying to reserve more jobs for their own nationals need to do something with the foreign workers, many of whom are Palestinian. The eventual goal is almost certainly to send them back to an independent Palestine, which requires a deal. Pakistan, of course, is a separate issue, and I don't know enough about that country to speculate. On the side, I'm also curious what the current economic ties are between Israelis and Palestinians. Anyone with actual knowledge of these matters, feel free to comment.


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