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The Taliban Will Decide if Pakistan Recognizes Israel

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"DIDNOT [sic] go to Israel," tweeted Zulfi Bukhari, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis, on Monday in response to a report in Israel Hayom claiming that Bukhari had visited Tel Aviv in November 2020 to pass on messages from Khan and Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa to Mossad head Yossi Cohen.

In December, the same newspaper reported that a "senior adviser to the leader of a large Muslim-majority country has recently visited Israel." U.K.-based counterterror analyst Noor Dahri tweeted the same day that the November 20th visit was undertaken by an unnamed close aide of Imran Khan, setting off a storm of intrigue in the region and outrage in Pakistan.

But this time around, clearly one rebuttal wasn’t enough. On Tuesday, Bukhari spiked the controversy with a chilling dose of antisemitism and flippant Holocaust exploitation.

"Those calling Jews brothers are demanding answers over rumors from me today," he tweeted, sharing a video from opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari from 2016, where he is saying, "I fear what happened to our Jewish brothers during World War II might happen to us Muslims today."

Bukhari’s jibe was pointed: Bilawal Monday called for an investigation into Pakistani government contact with Israel "done in the darkness of the night," and asked about persistent reports that a Pakistan army jet had flown to Amman at the time: "If an airplane did not pick up Zulfi Bukhari then whom did it pick up?"

The Khan aide was clearly trying to delegitimize the controversy by accusing his critics of appeasing the enemy - groveling to the Jews. It’s a strategy that, sadly, usually works in Pakistan.

Bukhari wasn’t alone in responding so quickly to close down the issue of Pakistan-Israel relations. Another aide of the Pakistani premier Dr Arslan Khalid was also quick to refute the reports as "propaganda" pushed by "Israel-India-Pak Fake news peddlars [sic]."

Despite the bluff, it was and is easy to deduce that the November 2020 visitor was Bukhari. He has a British passport and, unusually, is close to both of Pakistan’s centers of power: the civilian head, Imran Khan (tasked with campaigning for critical elections in the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan-administered Kashmir) and the military leadership (nominated to coordinate with Chinese officials on the strategic China Pakistan Economic Corridor).

When Bukhari was challenged back in December about visiting Israel, he was noticeably defensive, keen to narrate his record of sponsoring rallies for the Palestinian cause in the UK, and adding that he was suing the pro-Hamas Middle East Monitor for pushing the Israel visit story.

Ironically, he mocked what he called "conspirators" for, at least, “picking a date”........

© Haaretz

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