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Israel and Indonesia were on course to normalize relations before October 7: sources

Israel and Indonesia were on course to normalize relations before October 7: sources

 


Israel and Indonesia had planned to announce the establishment of diplomatic relations in October 2023, a decision that was delayed by the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza, three sources involved in the matter said. the negotiations. Jewish insider.

Eli Cohen, then Israeli Foreign Minister, and the office of outgoing Indonesian President Joko Widodos approved a final draft of an agreement allowing the Jewish state and the country with the world's largest Muslim population to exchange trade offices, as a first step towards full diplomatic relations, according to sources involved. in the talks said.

October 2023 was a likely date for the official announcement, in conjunction with a planned meeting of the Negev Forum in the middle of the month, but in November, when Widodo visited the White House, was also under study. Jakarta has also been tracking progress toward Israeli-Saudi normalization, believing there would be less backlash if both happened within a short period of time, a source said.

Indonesia was planning to simultaneously open a trade office in Ramallah.

Representatives from Widodos' office and Ronen Levy, then director general of the Foreign Ministry and one of the main Israeli players in the Abraham Accords, met in Jerusalem in September, alongside Dan Shapiro, who was at the he was a senior advisor to the State Department at the time. for regional integration, to finalize the text, as shown in a photo provided by one of the sources involved in the negotiations. New York restaurateur Joey Allaham also played a key role in the negotiations.

Even though Shapiro was present and a small number of American officials were aware of the negotiations, Jakarta made no specific requests to Washington.

Indonesian President-elect Prabowo Subianto, who won elections earlier this month, has long supported normalization with Israel and, as defense minister, he met with Eyal Hulata, then Israel's national security adviser. However, as the negotiations took place months before the elections, Widodo planned to finalize full normalization with Israel before leaving office.

The parties also talked about removing Israel from Indonesia's visa blacklist. Currently, tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims from Indonesia visit Israel every year, but it is very difficult for Israelis who do not have passports from another country to visit this Southeast Asian archipelago, which includes the popular tourist destination Bali.

The draft agreement came after about four months of negotiations. Israelis who have found a way to do business in Indonesia, mainly in agrotechnologyas well as American Jews working with Jakarta, played a role in bringing the countries together.

After the war in Gaza began, the parties said we had to wait because the timing was problematic, a senior diplomatic source said.

The source noted, however, that Indonesia had not said the deal was out of the question, but that it was simply not the right time.

The senior diplomatic source said Jakarta was confident of establishing ties with Israel following the success of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and that Indonesia's large Christian minority, around 29 million people, or 10% of the population, is pro-Israeli.

Sources

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