In a conference of international journalists, the Prime Minister (PM) of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated his intention to open diplomatic relations with Indonesia. He expressed, Indonesia is one of the important countries for Israel.
In fact, it has become common knowledge that Israel has a bad relationship with Indonesia, which most of the population is Muslim. Much more fundamentally, the issue of public negativity in the country is actually not a matter of religion and belief. It is a fierce policy of colonization of Palestine. As is known, Palestine was the first country to recognize Indonesian independence.
However, Netanyahu has new optimism. He explicitly praised that the new Israeli-Indonesian relationship would greatly benefit both parties. “Indonesia is very, very important for us. Indonesia is very important for this country (Israel). Indonesia is the only country that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, most other countries [already] have,” Netanyahu said, as quoted by the Times of Israel Sunday (15/10).
“Indonesia has a population of more than 200 million people. They consist of Muslims and tens of millions of Christians. We want to see Indonesia here. We want to have good relations with them.”
Netanyahu answered the question from one of the conference participants, Monique Rijkers, a journalist and pro-Israeli activist from Jakarta. Monique also asked Netanyahu to open the Israeli border to Indonesian citizens (WNI) who want to worship in Jerusalem.
As is well known, Israeli authorities carried out a pilgrimage ban for Indonesian citizens since early 2018. The ban was imposed by Tel Aviv to reciprocate a similar ban imposed by the Indonesian government. “I will solve the visa problem, I will see what I can do about this,” Netanyahu said.
During this time, Indonesia insisted on reluctant to establish diplomatic relations with Israel as a form of government protest against the illegal occupation of the country in the Palestinian territories. Although it has no official relationship, Jakarta and Tel Aviv are reported to have trade relations that are carried out through third parties or countries.
History records that Indonesia once established military relations with Israel. A covert operation used to bring in A4 Skyhawk aircraft in the 80s is evidence that until now was not officially recognized.
The question that came up later, why was Netanyahu’s tone so optimistic, so praised and softened? What is the purpose of this superpower in the Middle East? Is there anything to do with security diplomacy to ease tensions there?
Speculation has sprung up. However, from the confusion of opinion formed, one of the strongest is Israel’s interest in conducting the business of buying and selling natural gas with Indonesia. As is known, recently the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) stated that Indonesia has a great potential to become a natural gas importing country by 2025. In other words, Indonesia will soon face a gas deficit.
Then, what is the connection with Israel? Whether coincidentally or not, since February 2018, it has been crowded in the international media reporting that the country will conduct a second auction to sell the rights to develop offshore natural gas. Incidentally an auction of offshore natural gas reserves will be carried out in October or November. Israel offers about 20 or 25 blocks in the Mediterranean.
The first auction, held last year, only received offers from two companies because some oil companies were concerned about the reaction of oil-rich Arab countries that were hostile to the country. Egypt agreed to buy US $ 15 billion of Israeli gas for a period of 10 years. Another contract to Jordan with a smaller contract value of US $ 10 billion, but for a period of 15 years. Only Egypt and Jordan, two Arab countries that have an agreement with Israel.
Israel has many plans for its abundance of gas. They hope to sell more to Egypt so that fuel can be converted to LNG for export. They will also build a pipeline, one to Jordan, so that gas can be sent to India and Europe by avoiding passing the Suez Canal.
Will Indonesia participate in the auction? Or will Indonesia buy natural gas that has been produced through third hand? Until now there has been no further information, but President Joko Widodo has said that Indonesia continues to support the Palestinians to fight for their independence and rights. This was expressed by President Jokowi in response to the US unilateral recognition of Jerusalem which is referred to as the Capital of Israel at the end of 2017.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla (JK) also stated that he did not agree with Netanyahu’s desire to establish diplomatic relations with Indonesia because they did not recognize Palestinian independence. JK’s reason was not to open diplomatic relations because he asked the Israeli side to focus on peace. If it is peaceful, Indonesia, JK said, will conduct diplomatic relations. “[Without] Peace we cannot open diplomatic relations,” JK said in his office, Jalan Merdeka Utara, Central Jakarta, Tuesday (10/16/2018).
Candidate of vice president Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno agrees with the Vice President Jusuf Kalla. Sandiaga considered that Indonesia was a country that also voiced the right of Palestinian independence according to the ideals of the nation’s founders. However, Sandiaga wants Indonesia to be friendly with all countries, including Israel.
Member of the Indonesian Parliament’s Commission I from PDIP, Andreas Hugo Pareira, spoke up regarding Netanyahu’s statement who was interested in establishing good relations with Indonesia. According to Andreas, Netanyahu’s desire is certainly based on consideration of Indonesia’s strategic role in the context of international politics and the settlement of a long-standing dispute between Israel and Palestine in particular.
“If only Indonesia could play a role in the Israeli-Palestinian settlement, it would certainly contribute greatly to the completion of the problem in the Middle East,” Andreas told Okezone, Thursday (10/18/2018).
Nevertheless, Netanyahu’s offer needs to be studied and considered carefully because so far Indonesia has no history of diplomacy with Israel.