INEW YORK – Pakistan's government will eventually have to recognize Israel, but it would be political suicide to do so today, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said.
Such recognition would end any hopes of Pakistan serving as bridge between the Muslim world and the West, Musharraf said Tuesday.
Musharraf, who addressed the U.N. General Assembly last week and is promoting his new autobiography in the United States, said his considerable skills at walking a tightrope would not enable him to negotiate the firestorm that recognizing Israel would cause, particularly after its recent attacks on Lebanon.
"We cannot do something that sidelines us from the Muslim world," Musharraf said after a speech to the Weill Cornell Medical College.
Musharraf said his country would consider formally recognizing Israel only after the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
"It must be done eventually," Musharraf said. But he reiterated that the Palestinian issue must be resolved comprehensively, calling it a major contributing factor to every conflict in the Middle East.
He also touched on the anti-terror fight, saying that Pakistan was largely abandoned by the West in 1989, after playing a key role in ending the Soviet occupation of neighboring Pakistan.
"Everyone left us high and dry" to deal with 20,000-30,000 mujahedeen fighters holed up in Afghanistan and 4 million refugees who crossed the border into Pakistan," Musharraf said.
"The mujahedeen coalesced into Al Qaeda," he added.
Then came the Sept. 11 attacks, and Pakistan found itself thrust back into the spotlight as a key supporter of the U.S. invasion in Afghanistan and the war on terrorism.
He said it was "disappointing" to hear criticism that Pakistan is not doing enough to fight terrorism.
"If we're not doing enough, I don't know who is," he said. "I don't know who is doing more than us."
Musharraf said Al Qaeda's back had been broken, but that small pockets of its fighters and Taliban sympathizers remain in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
"They are militant. They are aggressive," he said, describing how they are attempting to foster a people's movement.