'It's Not Pakistan,' Israeli Minister Says About Next Asian Muslim Country to Normalize Relations

Earlier, U.S. official said that Indonesia could get $1 billion to $2 billion more in development aid if it joins the rush being organized by the Trump administration

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The Israeli flag carrier El Al's airliner carrying an Israeli delegation accompanied by U.S. White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, arrives in Rabat, Morocco December 22, 2020
The Israeli flag carrier El Al's airliner carrying an Israeli delegation accompanied by U.S. White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, arrives in Rabat, Morocco December 22, 2020Credit: HANDOUT/ REUTERS
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Israel is working toward formalizing relations with a fifth Muslim country during U.S. President Donald Trump's term, which ends next month, an Israeli minister told Ynet TV on Wednesday.

The White House has brokered rapprochements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco this year, with Morocco hosting an Israeli-U.S. delegation on Tuesday to flesh out the upgrade in relations.

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Asked if a fifth country could sign up before Trump steps down on January 20, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis told Ynet TV: "We are working in that direction."

"There will be an American announcement about another country that is going public with the normalization of relations with Israel and, in essence, with the infrastructure for an accord – a peace accord," he said.

He declined to name the country but said there were two main candidates. One is in the Gulf, he said, giving Oman as a possibility while adding that Saudi Arabia is not.

The other candidate, further to the east, is a "Muslim country that is not small" but is not Pakistan, Akunis said.

Earlier, Adam Boehler, the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., told Bloomberg that Indonesia could get $1 billion to $2 billion more in development aid if it joins the rush being organized by the Trump administration in its final days to have Arab and Muslim countries openly recognize Israel.

“We’re talking to them about it,” Boehler said. “If they’re ready, they’re ready, and if they are then we’ll be happy to even support more financially than what we do.”

Over the last several weeks several media outlets have raised the possibility of normalization talks between Pakistan and Israel. A London-based Pakistani researcher reported that a senior adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan secretly visited Israel. At the same time, Israel Hayom newspaper reported on a secret visit to Israel by a delegation from an Asian Muslim country with which Israel has no diplomatic ties.

Some media outlets saw a correlation between the two reports, which triggered a wave of speculation in Pakistan. Khan said a month ago that Pakistan is being heavily pressured by the United States and another Muslim country to recognize Israel.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, said last week it would not recognize Israel as long as Palestinian statehood demands remain unmet.

Palestinians fear the normalization of ties with Israel by of Arab states will weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position calling for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

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