TRACK-2 DIPLOMACY TO END MUSLIM-JEWISH MIDDLE EASTERN CONFLICT

Pakistan and the OIC needs to play a Balanced Role —

**Written by guest author Gholam Mujtaba, Ed.D., M.D.**

“We (Israel) are not enemies of Pakistan and Pakistan should not be our enemy either”, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting suggestions that Israel-India relationship poses any threat to Pakistan during his visit to New Delhi this year. Contrary to his statement on Pakistan, Mr. Netanyahu earlier this month stated that Israel would be better off confronting Iran sooner rather than later. He blamed Iranian role in Syria in destabilizing the entire Middle East, a statement that echoes with the observation of most Arab states.

Last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman commented that the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in their ancestral home. This in no way conflicts with the right of Palestinian to have their homes. Such public recognition from an Arab and Muslim leader is rare in recent memory. The Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 638, brought Islamic Caliph Omer to the Holy City of Jerusalem where Judaism’s holy sites were honored. It is equally important to Muslims, including the peak on which Solomon built the First Temple. The Jewish rituals were restored which were restricted during the Byzantine rule of Jerusalem.

The Muslim-Jewish relationship dwindled in the past 70 years. However, historically, members of the Jewish community served as advisors during the 700 years of Muslim rule of Eastern Europe. In predominantly Muslim nations like Morocco, and Azerbaijan, the Muslim-Jewish relationship is strong antithetical to most nations in the Middle East. In 2003, a 3-story synagogue was built in Baku through government funding for rituals of the Ashkenazi community who may have been there since Babylonian exile dating back to 2,500 years.

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) annual budget of 5.8 billion dollars is supported by the United States as the top donor followed by the EU, Saudi Arabia, and other European nations. Iran, China and Russia are non-contributors towards PA. However, to my utter surprise, the Iranian regime’s supporters across the globe are the biggest sponsors of hostility between the Palestinian Arabs and the State of Israel.

Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have a major role to play as honest brokers, together with the United States to rescue the current stalemate in the Middle East. Pakistan should not serve as a buffer state in discharging U.S. sanctions on Iran. Saudi Arabian model of engagements with the state of Israel is the only viable solution to bring peace in the Middle East. Neither party in conflict in Jerusalem can be thrown into the ocean. Peace is beneficial to the state of Israel and the Palestinian Arabs equally.

The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) comprising of 57 member Muslim nations should open doors to the State of Israel as an observer state. This will diffuse hostility, and bring the stakeholders on the negotiating table in the Middle Eastern peace initiative. Rules of engagements, exchange of views and consultations can thaw the existing impediments in this relationship. It is about time to end this belligerence, and seize a U.S. role under a determined and resolute POTUS to turn the tables in the making up of history.

Recognizing Israel by Muslim states will open doors of cooperation, friendship, bilateral trade, exchange of cultural and educational coordination. It will enhance travel and tourism in the Holy city, and be helpful to both the Jewish and Arab communities in the Middle East. The Palestinian Arabs will have opportunities of employment in the neighboring countries to seize resources for a better living. Annihilating a state of war will end human sufferings, and improve regional progress and economy.

The American Jewish Congress and Muslim Leaders should join hands to take up a historical initiative through a track-2 diplomacy to ward off anguish, agony and tribulation across the globe. Dr. Munr Kazmir, the current Vice President of the American Jewish Congress, himself being a Jewish of Pakistani background can play a vital role in the track-2 diplomacy with myself having the highest number of pro-U.S. social media following from the region to diffuse hatred, belligerence and hostility amongst the followers of the monotheistic religion who have more in common than their differences.

Allow track-2 to take a new initiative in bringing regional progress and peace, and defeat clash of civilization.

********Dr. Gholam Mujtaba has had a long career in politics across America and Pakistan. Currently, a Central Leader to the Republican Party of the United States of America and Chairman of Pakistani Policy Institute, USA, he is an expert on conflict management and Pakistani leadership. He was conferred the Doctorate in Organizational Leadership by the Argosy University in 2016. Recipient of the United States Congressional Recognition Award in 2015, Dr. Mujtaba has previously held such highly regarded positions as the Central Vice President of the All Pakistan Muslim League and an Advisor to Chief Minister Sindh, a cabinet position in Pakistan.

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