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Israel says Pakistan not among candidates to normalize ties with

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Demonstrators carry a banner depicting crossed out portraits of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu beside burning Israel and US flags during a protest against the UAE' decision to normalize ties with Israel, in Karachi, Pakistan, on August 21, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis says the regime is pushing to normalize relations with another Muslim country before US President Donald Trump leaves office, but that country is not Pakistan.

Asked if a fifth state could sign up before January 20, when Trump’s term ends, Akunis told Israel’s 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 added.

The Israeli minister declined to name the country, but said there were two main candidates.

One of the candidates is in the Persian Gulf, Akunis noted, giving Oman as a possibility while adding that it wasn’t Saudi Arabia.

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

Over the past few months, four Arab countries — the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — have established formal diplomatic relations with Israel in deals brokered by the Trump administration. Palestinians have condemned the normalization pacts as a treacherous "stab in the back" of their cause against the Israeli occupation.

Last week, Israeli news outlets reported that a senior advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had secretly traveled to the occupied territories in November -- a claim rejected by Islamabad as “fake news.”

Khan had earlier revealed that Pakistan was “under pressure from friendly countries to recognize Israel,” giving assurances, however, that Islamabad "will not do so without a fair settlement to the Palestinians.”

Many speculated that Khan was actually referring to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

On Monday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he had informed the UAE of Islamabad's “steadfast” policy towards Israel, stressing that his country would refuse to recognize the occupying regime until the issue of Palestine is resolved.

The normalization trend has sparked widespread anger among the Pakistani people, who have strong feelings for the Palestinian cause.

On Tuesday, Adam Boehler, the CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation, told Bloomberg that Indonesia could get $1 billion to $2 billion more in development aid if it joins the normalization drive.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, said last week that there would be no Israeli recognition until an independent Palestinian state is established.

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