An Israeli cabinet minister has confirmed that there is a fifth Muslim-majority country in Asia that could soon normalise relations with Tel Aviv, but clarified that it is not Pakistan.
Speaking to the Israeli news outlet Ynet TV, Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis acknowledged that there is a potential for two more countries to normalise relations with Israel. He predicted that "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."
One of those countries is reportedly in the Gulf, but he ruled out Saudi Arabia, therefore leaving many to believe it could be Oman. The other country is further to the east of Israel towards Asia, and is a "Muslim country that is not small."
Okif dismissed the possibility of it being Pakistan, however, which many have suspected following Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan admitting that "friendly" nations had been pressuring Islamabad to establish diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv.
Those "friendly" nations are thought to be Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, particularly after Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the UAE earlier this week that "we will not and cannot establish a relationship with Israel until a concrete and permanent solution to the Palestine issue is found."
The attributes described by Okif leave Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh as the only remaining Muslim-majority countries that are "not small" and do not already have open ties with Israel.
Indonesia last week reiterated that it would not recognise Israel until the demands and rights of the Palestinians are met, and Malaysia seconded that stance yesterday in its senate. Meanwhile Bangladesh told the British news agency Reuters that "Our position remains the same," apparently leaving that option out too.
The mystery over the fifth country to normalise ties with Israel comes after four Arab nations did so this year, starting with the UAE in August and then followed by Bahrain, Sudan and most recently Morocco.
Those countries all received something in return from the United States for their recognition. The UAE was provided with F-35 fighter jets, Sudan was removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list, and Morocco saw its sovereignty over the Western Sahara recognised.