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Indonesia, world’s most populous Muslim country, to normalize ties with Israel

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By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Indonesia will normalize ties with Israel if Israel in exchange will lift its veto on Jakarta joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The most populous Muslim nation in the world has historically been solidly anti-Israel and fervently pro-Palestinian. Yet Jerusalem and Jakarta have reportedly been negotiating the move for the last several months, even through the ongoing war with Hamas.

The OECD has played a role as well, officially confirming to Israel in March that Indonesia must have diplomatic relations with all its members for its application to be considered, and that “unanimous agreement” of all members must be attained for a country to join.

“I am convinced that this provides you with security on this important point,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann added in his letter to Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

Ynet reported that Katz wrote back that he now “expect[s] a positive change in its policy towards Israel, and in particular a renunciation of the discriminatory policy towards Israel, towards the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the parties.”

Early last month, a senior aide to President Joko Widodo publicly denied that the government was planning on establishing ties with the Jewish state.

Reacting to a report in Jewish Insider stating that the two countries had planned to announce the move in October or November 2023, beginning with the establishment of trade offices, Ari Dwipayana stated that “The information is completely incorrect.”

The finalized arrangements were then derailed by the Hamas invasion of Israel that sparked the ongoing war in Gaza, the report said.

Indonesian officials have harshly criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza, and Jakarta backed South Africa in its International Court of Justice case accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians in the war.

Israel, supported among others by the United States and Germany, has completely rejected the claim.

Indonesia was one of the countries whose names were bandied about as possible additions to the 2020 Abraham Accords, the framework under which Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan normalized relations with Israel for the first time.

Jewish Insider had reported that Dan Shapiro, the then-State Department’s senior advisor for regional integration, had attended a September meeting in Jerusalem in which the details of a memorandum of understanding were ironed out with another of Widodo’s senior advisers.

The two countries have reportedly had quiet trade, tourism and security contacts for years, even without diplomatic relations.

In a possible sign of an additional thaw, Israel approved Tuesday an airdrop of humanitarian aid over Gaza conducted by the Indonesian air force. The flight, coming from Jordan, was the first time an airplane from Indonesia had ever entered Israeli airspace.

The OECD currently consists of the world’s 38 leading economies. Indonesia is the 16 largest economy worldwide, with a GDP of $1.5 trillion. According to the World Bank, it jumps to tenth place in terms of its purchasing power parity, which is the rate at which the currency of one country is converted into that of another country to buy the same amount of goods and services.

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