Thursday, November 03, 2005

EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Afghanistan: Might Warmer Relations With Jerusalem Cool Kabul's Relations With Tehran?

AFGHANISTAN: MIGHT WARMER RELATIONS WITH JERUSALEM COOL KABUL’S RELATIONS WITH TEHRAN?

Amin Tarzi 11/03/05
A EurasiaNet Partner Post from RFE/RL

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In an unprecedented interview in Kabul with a reporter from Tel Aviv daily "Yedi’ot Aharonot," Afghan President Hamid Karzai hinted at a desire to establish formal relations with Israel. While the euphoria that accompanied presumptions of imminent full diplomatic relations was quickly tempered by preconditions, the warming of ties between Afghanistan and Israel sets Kabul’s policies in sharp contrast to those of neighboring Iran, where President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad has called for the destruction of the Jewish state.

In the interview, which was conducted on 7 October but published a week later, Karzai welcomed Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and said that once "there is further progress [in the Mideast peace process], and the Palestinians begin to get a state of their own, Afghanistan will be glad to have full relations with Israel." Furthermore, while Karzai ruled out meeting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Afghanistan or in Israel, he said he hoped to meet the Israeli leader "somewhere else...soon." Karzai also revealed the he had met Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres "several times," referring to him as "a dear man, a real warrior for peace."

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Unidentified Israeli sources indicated that they clearly understood the pressure that Kabul was under from the Arab and Muslim world and that no one in official circles had thought it realistic that Kabul would officially recognize Jerusalem immediately. However, "Yedi’ot Aharonot" quoted sources as having acknowledged the existence of a dialogue between the two countries and said the process would be a long one.

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It would undoubtedly take some time for Afghanistan to recognize Israel, as the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis remains unfinished business. But the Afghan government’s desire to break the ice and its willingness to engage the Israeli media -- and the prospect of possible contacts with Israeli leaders -- have clearly placed it on a drastically different platform than the Iranian government. In light of the increasingly vociferous Iranian condemnation of the presence of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with Kabul proclaiming policies so markedly different from Tehran’s, Karzai’s government might have to brace itself for the "wrath" of its western neighbor in the form of greater interference or even attempts to destabilize Afghanistan.

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