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Could Indonesia be the next Muslim country to normalize ties with Israel?

One report speculates that prior cooperation could lead to official ties

Then-Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meets with Muslim leaders from Indonesia, Jan. 18, 2017 (Photo: Reuven Rivlin's Twitter feed)

Indonesia could become the next country to normalize ties with Israel and join the Abraham Accords – this time through practical cooperation which has already been taking place.

The two countries have grown close with Israeli know-how companies working on food security and agriculture in Indonesia.

Shmuel Friedman is an agriculture consultant and entrepreneur who has been working on a research and development center in Indonesia. He said that Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto – a partner on the project – agrees with him that food security is no less important than security itself. 

“That’s what we know [how] to bring. At the end of the day, we bring results and see satisfied farmers, so it doesn’t matter where it comes from,” Friedman said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken brought up the topic of diplomatic ties with Israel in a bilateral meeting with Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi in December.

Indonesia, neither an Arab nor Middle Eastern nation, is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Almost 280 million people live in the giant Asian state. Egypt, by comparison, is the most populous Muslim country with a population of around 100 million people. 

The Abraham Accords, signed in 2020, normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. The Abraham Accords were brokered by former U.S. President Donald Trump' administration, but the Biden administration is seeking to expand the accords even further. 

Indonesia has confirmed that Blinken raised the issue at the meeting with Marsudi. The Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said in a written statement in December that, “Talks about Israel were raised by Secretary of State Blinken in his meeting with the Indonesian Minister in his visit to Jakarta.”  

But one official admitted, “It’s a long process. There’s one meeting and then another and unmarked planes and all of the cinematic things that go with that – and then, one day, it happens.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, which quoted an anonymous source: “The Biden administration is really pushing for Israel-Indonesia normalization, and it is very optimistic it will come to fruition.”

Despite the lack of formal ties, a multitude of contacts between Israel and Indonesia have been ongoing for some time now, particularly in trade and technology. Israel has sold fighter jets and drones to the country. 

Before the pandemic, travel by Indonesians to Israel grew to 30,000 annually over the past decade. 

Normalization with Indonesia could be a breakthrough for a more general peace between Israel and the Muslim world, according to senior U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross. 

Ross said that if Indonesia would normalize ties with Israel “or even take a normalizing step like opening a commercial trade office with Israel, it would be a big deal.”

“The world’s largest Muslim majority state normalizing relations with Israel, even as part of a process, would signal a much broader reconciliation between Muslims and the State of Israel,” Ross said. “It would reflect a broader acceptance of Israel among those who historically had rejected it. It would make isolation of Israel that much more difficult.”

Normalized ties between Israel and Indonesia would possibly signal an end to the Muslim world’s boycott of the Jewish state. In addition, as a large and rapidly growing emerging economy, Indonesia could become a significant export destination for Israeli high-tech companies.  

Ross noted that Indonesia also has much to gain by normalizing ties with Israel. 

“What would Indonesia get from the United States for such outreach to Israel? The answer is most likely the promise of significant private and public sector investment,” Ross said. “No doubt, if Indonesia were to take a normalizing step, it would reflect its expectation of economic gains – sending a message to others of the value of such ties.”

Less than two years after the signing of the historic Abraham Accords, the mutually beneficial economic fruits are already visible for both Arabs and Israelis with the best likely yet to come in the future. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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