Israel has been working towards formalising relations with a fifth Muslim country in Asia before US President Donald Trump’s exit, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Wednesday.
On being asked if a fifth country could sign up before Trump steps down in January 2021, regional cooperation minister Ofir Akunis told Israel’s Ynet TV: “We are working in that direction.”
“I believe there will be an American announcement about another country that is going public with the normalisation of relations with Israel and, in essence, with the infrastructure for an accord, a peace accord,” he said.
According to Akunis, there were two main candidate countries to become the next to move towards normal ties with the country. However, he clearly stated that it would not be Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.
Administration officials stated that Israel has been trying to warm up existing ties while trying to get more countries to recognize it.
Meanwhile, Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, stated it would not recognise Israel as long as Palestinian statehood demands remain unmet. Malaysia has signalled a similar policy.
The Palestinians, whose negotiations with Israel were stalled in 2014, fear being sidelined by the normalisation process.
“Malaysia’s firm stance on the Palestinian issue will not change,” deputy foreign minister Kamarudin Jaffar told the country’s senate on Wednesday. He added that Kuala Lumpur would not be interfering in other nations’ decisions on Israel.
Earlier this month, a senior Iranian official condemned Morocco’s normalisation of ties with Israel as a “betrayal of Islam”.
Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that Morocco, as well as the other countries that signed normalisation deals with Iran’s arch-rival in 2020, would face “popular uprisings” in the near future.