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Despite war in Gaza, Indonesia, world’s most populous Muslim country, could normalize relations with Israel

The two countries were reportedly close to announcing normalization before Oct. 7

Protesters are having their Iftar meals to break their fast during a mass Iftar dinner organized for displaced Palestinians in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 7, 2024 (Photo: Afriadi Hikmal/NurPhoto/Via REUTERS).

Following three months of secret talks, Indonesia could soon announce the normalization of relations with Israel. 

According to a report in Israel's Ynet News, the two countries held secret negotiations over the last three months about normalizing relations in exchange for Israeli support for Indonesia joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

A letter from OECD Sec.-Gen. Matthias Cormann to Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz informed him about Indonesia's upcoming inclusion in the organization, contingent upon the acceptance of a stipulation that requires member countries to maintain diplomatic relations with one another.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, has long been resistant to normalization with Israel under the administration of outgoing Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Widodo allowed low-level contact between the two nations, mostly focused on trade, but resisted any explicit recognition of Israel. The Indonesian premier was also a vocal proponent of a Palestinian state and oversaw his country’s role in backing South Africa’s genocide accusation against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.   

In the letter, Cormann wrote, “I am happy to announce that the Council has officially agreed to the early, clear and explicit condition that Indonesia should maintain diplomatic relations with all countries of the organization before any decision to accept it into the OECD. Moreover, any future decision to accept Indonesia as a member of the organization will require unanimous agreement among all the members, including Israel. I am convinced that this provides you with security on this important point.” 

Katz responded by saying he anticipated a positive change in Indonesia’s policy towards Israel. 

“I share your expectation that this process will constitute a change for Indonesia, as I expect a positive change in its policy towards Israel, and especially a renunciation of its discriminatory policy towards Israel, towards the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the sides,” Katz wrote. 

Cormann’s letter to Katz referred to a discussion between the two nations' representatives and reaffirmed that diplomatic relations were “an explicit prerequisite” to Indonesia’s joining the trade body. 

“Accordingly, and as part of our agreement, the establishment of diplomatic relations with all members of the organization, including Israel, is now an explicit prerequisite before any decision on inviting companies can be made, following the completion of the technical review process. Importantly, this prerequisite cannot be removed without a new consensus decision by the entire OECD Council, including Israel,” Cormann wrote to Katz. 

According to a previous report in Jewish Insider, Israel and Indonesia had planned to announce the establishment of diplomatic relations in Oct. 2023, before the Hamas invasion on Oct. 7. This happened under the supervision of then- Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who previously stated that several large Muslim nations were planning to normalize relations with Israel. 

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

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