Md Touhid Hossain is a former foreign secretary
We have not yet given recognition to Israel. We do not have a diplomatic relationship with them. So, in its present state, it will not have a significant political or economic impact. All that has happened is we have removed “except Israel” from our passport.
There is a symbolic value to this. But still, I think everything will depend on what happens in the follow-up. I personally do not think that Bangladesh has yet gone to the stage where it can be said that it has established a formal relationship with Israel.
I do not think that it will have a significant impact. Israelis have expressed their happiness, but our foreign ministry has already clarified that removing a certain phrase from the passport does not mean visiting Israel is allowed. I don’t know if there is a law or a circular. Since we didn’t have a passport enabling people to travel to Israel, there was no need to think about these laws and circulars. Whether any new orders were given in this regard, following the recent update, as to whether any action will be taken against someone who goes there, we do not know yet.
Practically speaking, if anyone wishes to go there with that passport and Israel gives the visa, he can go there in person without any trouble. Previously, even if Israelis gave the visa, you could not go there. What I have heard is that some people had still been there. But it was a risky matter. But now, there will not be a problem from their end.
However, our foreign ministry has said that the recent changes won’t have an impact on the longstanding ban on travel on Israel imposed by us. So, we still need to see what actually happens in the future.
With the latest changes in the passport, I do not think that Bangladesh’s commitment towards Palestine has changed in any way, because of two reasons. Firstly, if you look at the constitution, it is clearly stated there that we will have to support those who are oppressed anywhere in the world. Now, there is no reason to doubt that there are oppressed people in Palestine. So, we still have a constitutional commitment.
Secondly, there is a general sentimental attachment among Bangladeshi people that we should not support those who oppress others. Besides, I feel that when the government decides something, they will definitely look at the constitution and the public sentiment attached to the matter.
But we need to understand that we do not have a direct conflict with Israel. We do not support them; it is totally because of the Arabs and the Palestinians. But what we can see is that many Arab countries are developing a friendly relationship with Israel. So this has brought us to a peculiar position. We will have to see what unfolds in the next few days.
If an understanding is reached between Israel and Palestine, then I do not think that we will have a reason not to establish a diplomatic relationship with Israel. But I do not think we are there yet.