Pakistan and Israel have finally engaged in a bilateral trade as the first shipment arrived at Haifa Port this week and it will pave the way for diplomatic relations in near future, according to businessmen and experts.
The first private shipment comprising of dates, dry fruits and spices in a single container marked the entry of Pakistsni products in Israeli market and welcomed by the customers, DubaiNews.tv has learnt.
The Karachi-based businessman Fisher BenKhald, who runs a Jewish kosher certification business for food manufacturers exporting products to destinations worldwide, disclosed the rare bilateral trade through Twitter on Tuesday.
“Congratulation to me as a Pakistani. I exported first batch of Pakistan 🇵🇰 food products to Israel 🇮🇱 market. Dates, Dry fruit, spice in a single container,” BenKhald tweeted.
Congratulation to Me as a Pakistani
I exported first batch of Pakistan 🇵🇰 food products to Israel 🇮🇱 market
— Fishel BenKhald (@Jew_Pakistani) March 28, 2023
First major move
The Pakistsni-Jewish businessman was among a group of Pakistanis who undertook a rare trip to Israel last year and visited the Jewish prayer site in Jerusalem known as the Western Wall. The 15-member group of primarily Pakistani Americans, who travelled on their US passports, was organised by an American Muslim women’s activist group in collaboration with an Israeli organisation promoting ties with Muslim countries.
BenKhald engaged three Israeli businesspeople from Jerusalem and Haifa to mark this historic deal as both the countries do not recognise each other and have no diplomatic relations.
The businessman posted a video clip of his items, including dates, dry fruit and spices, on display in a Jerusalem market.
“This was not the first export of Pakistani products to Israel,” BenKhald said.
“There are many ways for logistics, you need to find/network your own. If quality, price & commitment to specification is OK, Israeli buyers will pay for it,” he said.
Trade power works
The American Jewish Congress said business and trade have the power to bring ideas and people closer.
“This week, we have seen major steps taken in Israel, Pakistan, and the UAE to expand prosperity and opportunity for everyone in the Middle East,” the American Jewish Congress said in a statement from its New York headquarters.
— American Jewish Congress (@AJCongress) March 31, 2023
The move coincided with the UAE decision to reduce or remove tariffs on about 96 pet cent of goods traded with Israel. Trade exhibits hosted by the UAE helped Pakistani and Israeli businessmen conclude a deal that enabled this week’s Pakistani shipment to Israel.
“We welcome this small step that can have wider implications for Israeli and Pakistani economies and for the region at large,” according to the statement.
“In welcoming this development, we recall the legacy of our public diplomacy initiatives in 2005, – spearheaded by our President Jack Rosen, and in partnership with the American Council for World Jewry – that culminated in diplomatic and economic breakthroughs at the time between Israel and Pakistan, two nations that do not have diplomatic ties yet but whose entrepreneurs and technologists have forged ahead in pursuit of common prosperity,” it added.
A positive development
Samiullah Tariq, Head of Research and Development at Pakistan Kuwait Investment Company, welcomed the move and termed it a positive development to bring two nations closer in months to come.
“This is just a start. Going forward, Pakistan could be a major beneficiary if we take benefit from the Israeli expertise in agriculture, technology and other areas,” Tariq told DubaiNews.tv.
The Pakistan Government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is expected to face political and public pressure as Islamabad does not recognise Tel Aviv.
“So another covert agenda of regime change conspiracy being fulfilled. & Conspirators also learning from Netanyahu how to control SC. MoFA needs to explain how all this is happening when Pak does not recognise Israel. What other covert deals have been made as part of London Plan?,” Dr Shireen Mazari, former minister and opposition leader tweeted.
So another covert agenda of regime change conspiracy being fulfilled. & Conspirators also learning from Netanyahu how to control SC. MoFA needs to explain how all this is happening when Pak does not recognise Israel. What other covert deals have been made as part of London Plan? pic.twitter.com/8gFTkXfhAl
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) March 31, 2023
Diplomatic ties on cards?
Pakistani officials did not immediately comment on the rare trade.
Islamabad does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and refuses to recognise it as a sovereign state until the state of Palestine is established — a long-running policy of many Muslim-majority countries. But the UAE and Bahrain forged relations with Israel in 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords. Sudan and Morocco followed suit.
“Trade exhibits hosted by the UAE helped Pakistani and Israeli businessmen conclude a deal that enabled this week’s Pakistani shipment to Israel,” the American Jewish Congress noted.
“We welcome this small step that can have wider implications for Israeli and Pakistani economies and for the region at large.”
The American Jewish Congress remains focused on working with the US government, the leaders of Israel and Pakistan, and partners in the Middle East for a prosperous future for all.
“Thanks to this initiative 18 years ago, constraints and licences that restricted Israel-Pakistan trade were abolished. On September 12, 2005, Israel announced it removed import licences for goods from Pakistan. The move followed a meeting between then Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Israel and Pakistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, on September 1, 2005, that marked the first public high-level political contact between the two nations.
“Late Congressman Tom Lantos, then Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, placed that effort in the Congressional Record, including the text of Pervez Musharraf’s speech, then President of Pakistan, to American Jewish leaders that acknowledged Mr Rosen’s initiative as ‘an endeavour for mutual understanding in a time of uncertainty and fear’,” according to the statement.
A beginning of new era
Analysts and economic experts said this is the beginning of a new era and Pakistan and Israel are expected to conclude more trade deals through mutual friendly nations such as the UAE. They were of the view that two countries will formally engage in official trade and investment deals in coming months after private sector took the initiative and open a door of opportunities.
“I was not expecting it to be taken that big of a deal,” BenKhald told Voice of America.
He also pointed out that this was not the first export of Pakistani products to Israel.
“The Israeli government and buyers have no problem accepting the direct shipment from Pakistan,” he said, adding that Israel does not have a problem sending payments to Pakistani banks.
Twitter followers welcome move
BenKhald’s initiative was mainly praised by his Pakistani Twitter followers, including journalists, politicians and businesspeople, some of whom asked for his advice on how to sell their products to Israel. He attempted to reply to every message.
“Congrats brother, you are doing excellent service that diplomats and politicians couldn’t do,” wrote Syed Wiqas Shah, a prime-time television news show host.
“It is very simple.. anyone can import Pakistani goods into a country which has trade relations with Israel and from there export to Israel. It is not in anyone’s control. It is not an achievement of PDM Govt..Trade should not be politicized though. Markets should be free,” Waqar Hasan, a Dubai-based businessman in real estate sector, tweeted.
“Time for both the countries to initiate dialogue and for this citizens-to-citizens contact could play a vital role in bringing both the countries close to each other,” wrote Zameer Ahmed Malik.