Will Indonesia ride the normalization train? .. The meeting of the Indonesian Defense Minister with the Israeli ambassador to Bahrain raises controversy in Jakarta
Jakarta – In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, a spokesman for the Indonesian Ministry of Defense described the brief conversation that took place between the Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and the Israeli ambassador to Bahrain Itai Tagner last Saturday on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue Conference for Regional Security as a passing meeting, considering that both of them are participants in the conference.
Dahnel Anzar Simanjuntak added that Prabowo was one of the keynote speakers at the Manama conference, and he also answered many questions in that session.
He said that the position of the Indonesian Defense Minister on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is clear as he stated in his speech at the conference in the presence of the Israeli delegation, which is his affirmation of Indonesia’s full support for the Palestinian people and their struggle and the establishment of an independent and sovereign state, and the urging to reach peace or a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Among what Prabowo said in his speech in Manama is that “our people are closely following the events and developments in the Middle East,” and that “the conflicts, tension and violence that occur in the Middle East afflict our people with great sadness, and the Indonesian people hope to see a renaissance in the Arab world, A renaissance of peace and prosperity.
“For us, the Palestinian issue remains a topic of great importance to the Indonesian people, and I would like to reiterate that Indonesia supports a peaceful solution that includes the two-state solution, and we are ready to make any effort we can to achieve that and support the potential of this solution,” he added.
The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth had described the meeting as unusual, and said on its website, “Tigner’s conversation with the defense minister of the largest Islamic country was documented, despite the absence of official relations between the two countries,” adding that it was an “extraordinary meeting, especially considering that since For many years, there has been no public meeting between representatives of the two countries, certainly not at this high level.”
The newspaper pointed out that the “official policy” between Indonesia and Israel is to “ignore” or not establish official relations, but added that there are trade relations between the two countries through many indirect channels.
Before the outbreak of the Corona epidemic, Israeli businessmen could visit Indonesia.
rejection of normalization
That conversation sparked widespread controversy on social media over the past two days. Comments and local news links under the hashtag “Prabobo_Israel” in the Indonesian language showed widespread popular and media interest in what happened, and questions about the feasibility of normalization for Indonesia and the position on Palestine.
Among those who commented on this was Tifatol Sempering, the former Minister of Information and opposition parliamentarian from the Justice and Welfare Party, who said – in a tweet to him – “Beware not to be deceived, because normalization with Israel means recognition of the State of Israel, recognition of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and acceptance of the occupation is contrary to the introduction to the Constitution of Indonesia for the year 1945”.
The former minister and other opponents of normalization with Israel are based on the phrase that came in the Indonesian constitution, or the so-called Basic Law of the country; It is the first sentence in the constitution, which reads: “Independence is the right of every people, and that is why all colonialism must be removed from the face of the earth because it is contrary to the meanings of humanity and justice.”
For his part, Muhyiddin Junaidi, Head of the Office of Foreign Relations and International Cooperation in the Muhammadiyah Society, said that there are no diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Israel, but there is informal communication in the field of trade and business, although it is out of sight.
And he continued, “In the context of the meeting, which was discussing strategic issues in Bahrain, if the meeting between the Minister of Defense and the Israeli ambassador was decided in advance and officially, it violates the text of the constitution, because Indonesia still considers Israel an occupier of Palestine, which is against human values, and because the minister is present. On behalf of the government, which is a very sensitive issue,” he said, expressing his displeasure in the event that the meeting was pre-arranged.
But if the meeting was “accidental” without a date or prior arrangement, like any meeting between participants in the same conference hall, then there is no problem with that, according to Junaidi in his speech to Al-Jazeera Net, and he is also the vice-chairman of the Advisory Council of the Council of Indonesian Scholars.
He explained that Prabowo should think carefully about any normalization step with Israel if he seeks to run for the fourth time for the Indonesian presidency in 2024, because this file will benefit his competitors at that time.
Prabowo, leader of the Great Indonesia Movement party, was a candidate for the opposition in the last elections in 2019, but he reached a consensus after losing the electoral race, and despite the appeals submitted; He agreed with President-elect Jokowi for the second term, and under this consensus Prabowo received the Ministry of Defense and his party joined the ruling coalition.
According to Junaidi, Israel is trying to search for agents to put pressure on Indonesia, and its agents in this case are two Arab countries, the UAE and Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel. financing a project in East Kalimantan, warning that the file of normalization would be part of the financial arrangements and a means of pressure on Jakarta to establish relations with Israel.
Junaidi warned that the normalization of relations between Indonesia and Israel would mean the collapse of an important fortress of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and beyond Indonesia from other Islamic countries, and this is why Israel insists on rapprochement with Jakarta because it realizes the importance of Indonesia.
He pointed to other ways to bring the two countries closer, including in his estimation, the possibility that the Indonesian Association of Renaissance of Ulama – and its political front, the National Renaissance Party of the ruling coalition in the country – would support the trend of normalization with Israel if one of the candidates to lead it wins in its upcoming elections soon, and who had visited Previously, Israel supports normalization with it.
Junaidi said that between 40,000 and 50,000 Indonesians used to go to Palestine every year, before the Corona epidemic, and most of them traveled to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and there are also Christians who go to Jerusalem because Palestine is important to them as well, and there is commercial communication between the two countries, even if the data is adhered to. Issued by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, including a statement issued in Jakarta in 2016, stresses the boycott of Israel. It is assumed that commercial relations between the two countries should not be based on a moral standpoint, not that they advance commercial interests, according to his opinion.
Israel usually takes the course of commercial relations as a prelude to diplomatic relations, as happened in many Arab countries, according to Junaidi, stressing that normalizing the major Islamic countries means forgetting the Palestine issue in exchange for Israeli settlement expansion at the expense of the Palestinians.
Junaidi denounced the haste of Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel, saying that Israel will continue to look for a loophole or any opportunity to normalize relations with Indonesia, stressing the need for community organizations and civil society institutions in Indonesia to maintain their position rejecting normalization, especially that Indonesia is about to host The G-20 summit next year, and Indonesia’s demographic weight in the Islamic world.
In his answer to Al Jazeera Net’s questions, Yun Mahmoudi – a professor in the Department of International Relations at the University of Indonesia – said that what happened from the conversation between Prabowo and the Israeli ambassador was only a passing meeting that was not arranged in advance, and between the sessions at the conference, explaining that he was supposed to have been my assistants. The Indonesian Defense Minister should expect early on the possibilities of some delegations seeking to meet him, in the context of Israel’s intense pursuit of such opportunities.
He continued, “Since arranging an official meeting is not possible, the Israeli side will continue to seek to meet with Indonesian officials in any international economic or humanitarian conference, because they realize the importance of building relations with Jakarta on the map of the Islamic world.”
Mahmoudi added that there is no way until now for the official normalization of relations between the two countries from a legal point of view and Indonesia’s clear position that there are no relations with Israel unless Palestine becomes independent in its state, and this condition has not been fulfilled, and Israel is aware of this Indonesian position, and therefore it seeks to take advantage of any opportunity to create Any meeting is not intended on the Indonesian side, but is intended on the Israeli side.
Regarding the media’s interest in a short meeting that may have lasted for more than minutes between the Indonesian Defense Minister and the Israeli ambassador, Mahmoudi comments that Israel wants to take advantage of any situation, no matter how small, to show that it spoke with the Indonesians, and this is a sensitive topic for the Indonesian people who are interested in the Palestinian cause. That is why the topic received wide attention on social media, which witnessed wide discussions about that meeting, despite the great disparity between the two levels of officials. The Israeli minister and diplomat, according to his description.
In Mahmoudi’s view, the file of normalization between Israel and Islamic countries during the era of US President Joe Biden is not as important as it was during the administration of President Donald Trump, and he expects this file to decline in the coming period.
He said that there is a scramble between two tracks, as the more pressure is exerted on Indonesia to recognize Israel, this is supposed to prompt us for more support and a demand to achieve what the Palestinian people seek of independence for their state and self-determination.