Israeli deputy foreign minister reveals secret talks with Indonesia
MK Hotovely reveals that the Foreign Ministry has been taking part in clandestine meetings in Jakarta; Sunday's refusal to facilitate the Indonesian foreign minister's visit to Ramallah was caused by a violation of these secret agreements.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely revealed on Wednesday that Israel and Indonesea are conducting secret negotiations, and that a representative of the Foreign Ministry recently visited the capital, Jakarta.
The statements were made in reply to a question in the Knesset from MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) regarding the Israeli decision to prevent Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi from entering Ramallah on Sunday.
"There were secret communications with Indonesia, with which we have no diplomatic relations, and there were understandings that they crudely violated, and we therefore prevented her from entering," said Hotovely in the Knesset. "It was a violation of diplomatic code, and so the most honorable thing is to honor the code, and when you commit a violation, don't be surprised that you are preventing yourself from visiting the Palestinian Authority."
Hotoveli clarified that the understandings were reached during the Foreign Ministry representative visit to Indonesia, according to which Indonesians could visit the Palestinian Authority only if they also visit Israel. She said that a dialogue exists through various channels, and Israel attaches great importance to relations with Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world.
Marsudi was supposed to inaugurate an honorary Indonesian consulate in Ramallah. She visited Jordan on Saturday and was scheduled to arrive on Sunday in Ramallah, to demonstrate Indonesia's commitment to improving relations with the Palestinians and to support Palestinian independence.
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who chose the Palestinian issue as the central theme of his foreign policy in the presidential election campaign in 2014, promised to open a diplomatic mission in Ramallah. Widodo also announced in his speech at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jakarta last week the appointment of a Palestinian to the position of honorary consul of Indonesia in Palestine. He announced that this role would be to strengthen economic, social and cultural exchanges and to encourage the travel of tourists and businesseople between the two countries, as well as to provide assistance to Indonesian citizens. In the same speech, the president said there should be a boycott of settlement products.
In 2012, Israel refused to allow the former foreign minister of Indonesia Marty Natalegawa to enter the the territories. Natalegawa’s request to enter along with a delegation of 12 ministers from Malaysia, Cuba and Bangladesh was denied.
Although Indonesia has clearly pro-Palestinian views in public, it is confidentially conducting close talks with Israel in a variety of areas, the center of which is tourism. Data from the Population and Immigration Authority show that in 2013 some 30,000 tourists came from Indonesia, compared with just 9,442 in 2009—an increase of more than threefold. Some travel agencies organize trips from Indonesia to Israel and sell packages.
In 2013, then-Israeli economy minister Naftali Bennett visited Indonesia to participate in the World Trade Organization conference in Bali. Former president Shimon Peres visited Indonesia in 2000. Amos Nadai, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry, also visited Indonesia, as well as Yael Rubinstein, then Israel's ambassador to Thailand. At the same time, several delegations from Indonesia arrived in Israel. In 2013, a group of Indonesian officials secretly visited the country and even visited the Knesset. Last year, a delegation from Indonesia participated in a homeland security conference in Tel Aviv.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry operates a website in Indonesia and brings delegations of journalists and opinion makers from Indonesia to Israel every year. Indonesian businessmen are invited to receptions celebrating Israel’s Independence Day, conducted by the Israeli Embassy in Singapore, which is responsible for the relationship with Indonesia. However, whenever reports were published in Indonesia that relations are warming up, they immediately led to demonstrations against Israel and threats from Muslim organizations.