Israel’s low-key ties with Indonesia

Despite pro-Palestinian support from country with world’s largest Muslim population, article in ‘Diplomat’ reveals improvement in diplomatic ties between Indonesia and Israel, with 200,000 Indonesian tourists visiting Israel, billion-dollar trade.

The diplomatic ties between Israel and Indonesia, the country with world’s largest Muslim population, have significantly improved in recent years, according to an article recently published in “The Diplomat” foreign affairs Asian magazine – despite the fact that the two countries do not maintain diplomatic ties.

Although the country has openly expressed support of the Palestinian cause, it has been maintaining low-key, close relations with Israel. The trade ties between the two countries, for example, are flourishing, the article reported, and have amounted to half a billion dollars, of which 88 percent constitutes Indonesian exports to Israel and Israeli exports to Indonesia, mainly high-tech products.

In addition, the two countries established non-governmental organizations to promote the relationship between them. In 2002, the Indonesia-Israel Public Affairs Committee (IIPAC) was established, with the help of Benjamin Kentang, an Indonesian Jew who was studying in Israel.

Another field that saw strong growth is tourism. According to data from the Population and Immigration Authority, in the past six years 124,719 Indonesian tourists arrived in Israel. In 2013, 29,517 tourists arrived from Indonesia – compared to 9,442 who arrived in 2009.

In 2013, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett visited Indonesia in order to take part in a World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Jakarta.. Shimon Peres also visited Indonesia in 2000. Amos Nadai, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Asia and Pacific, also visited the country.

In 2004, in the wake of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, Israel sent medical and humanitarian aid to Indonesia. Then Foreign Ministry director Ron Prosor traveled to the country along with Israeli volunteers but was refused a meeting with his local counterpart in Jakarta and was not even allowed off the plane.

 

The author of the article estimates that “Ties between Indonesia and Israel may well remain quiet in the years to come. Certainly, if the relationship does become more open, Indonesia is likely to face pressure from domestic Islamic groups and even the general public.”

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