The Pakistan Daily Times reported Saturday that "Afghanistan will announce it is officially recognizing Israel in the next few days," quoting Afghan diplomatic sources, who also said the move could pave the way for other Muslim countries in the region, such as Pakistan, to follow suit.
Israeli officials confirmed the report on Sunday, saying that they were not surprised.
"If there ever was a suitable time for this in terms of the public opinion's readiness in the Arab and Muslim world, it is clear that now is the best time," one official said, hinting to the international effect of the disengagement plan.
The officials estimated that the reports are also influenced by the campaign led by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom aimed at ending the boycott of Israel among Arab and Muslim countries with which Israel has no direct conflict or a border, such as Afghanistan.
Political sources added that "There is no doubt that the move of getting closer to Israel, also expressed in interviews given by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Yedioth Ahronoth reporter Orly Azoulay for the first time, if it is to be realized, expresses the desire to get close to the U.S."
In the Yedioth Ahronoth interview, Karzai referred to the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and Afghanistan, saying that this could only occur following additional progress in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli officials, however, said Sunday morning that Israel must see to it that the discussed move is in fact implemented.
"There is no doubt that Israel would congratulate such a move, but first of all we must see that it is indeed being fulfilled," they said.
Pakistan to accept aid from Israel
Earlier, Pakistan has agreed to accept aid from Israel in order to rehabilitate the damage caused by the south Asia earthquake which took place about a week ago, the Financial Times reported Saturday.
The official death toll in Pakistan has increased to 38,000 people, as reported by Major General Shaukat Sultan, the Pakistan army spokesman. He said that another 62,000 were injured. In neighboring India, 1,350 people lost their lives.
Foreign Minister Shalom met last month in Istanbul with his Pakistani counterpart, Khurshid Kasouri. The meeting was the first of its kind between the two countries, and at its end the two parties announced their intention to shortly establish diplomatic relations.
However, Pakistan's president said in an official announcement that "Pakistan will not recognize Israel before a Palestinian state is established." Nonetheless, he defended the meeting of his foreign minister with his Israeli counterpart following criticism by Islamic officials.