Israel-Indonesia normalization discussed by US Sec. of State Blinken

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, was one of the countries the Trump administration tried to bring into the Abraham Accords fold.

PARTICIPANTS RAISE an Indonesian flag at a training center in Rumpin, Indonesia, last June. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PARTICIPANTS RAISE an Indonesian flag at a training center in Rumpin, Indonesia, last June.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the possibility of Indonesia normalizing their diplomatic relations with Israel in meetings with officials in Jakarta last week, Israeli officials said on Thursday, Walla reported.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, was one of the countries the Trump administration tried to bring into the Abraham Accords fold, though negotiations had stalled by the time Trump’s term concluded.

The Abraham Accords were the landmark normalization agreements signed between Israel and several other Muslim-majority countries, such as the UAE and Bahrain, that up to that point had no formal diplomatic ties with Israel and sought to keep that status quo. Donald Trump’s administration spearheaded the talks, which culminated in deals between Israel and four other countries.

The US and Israeli officials have discussed ways to expand the Abraham Accords in recent months – and Indonesia has come up in that context, according to the Israeli officials.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed participate in the signing of the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations between Israel and some of its Middle Eas (credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed participate in the signing of the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations between Israel and some of its Middle Eas (credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)

While Israeli officials stressed that no deal is close, there have been unofficial progress made behind the scenes: During the original Abraham Accords negotiations, Indonesia requested an upgraded trade deal with the US in return for taking steps to normalize ties with Israel – such as opening direct flights and issuing visas to Israelis – according to former Trump administration officials.

“We are always exploring additional opportunities for normalization, but we’ll leave those discussions behind closed doors until the right moment," State Department spokesperson Ned Price told Axios. Another senior US official said the Biden administration was working “quietly but quite assiduously” to expand the accords.

The Southeast Asian country of Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous country with roughly 270 million inhabitants – a vast majority of whom are Muslim. Consisting of over 17,000 islands – most notably the tourist hub Bali – it is the 14th-largest country by area and the largest island region on the planet.

Indonesia declared independence in 1945 – just a few years before the State of Israel was officially founded – after battling with colonial powers that dominated the nation for over 350 years.

 Indonesia's flag (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY) Indonesia's flag (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY)

Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, which is common among Muslim-majority countries and has actively supported Palestine.

However, senior Israeli and Indonesian officials have met quietly several times in the past two decades, primarily at the annual UN General Assemblies in New York. Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Bahrain spoke with Indonesia’s defense minister in a rare public interaction between officials last month, while Israel’s National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata met briefly with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto during the same conference and exchanged business cards with him, according to Walla.

After Prabowo was photographed at the conference speaking to an Israeli diplomat, he issued a statement saying that speaking to Israeli officials is not prohibited when it serves the national interest.