Netanyahu says more peace deals soon amid Indonesia, Oman speculation

"We're going to see many, many more countries, a lot more than people expect and perhaps a lot sooner than people expect."

US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Additional normalization deals between Israel and Arab and Muslim nations will be announced sooner than expected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday amid speculation that Indonesia and/or Oman could normalize ties with the Jewish state.
“We’re going to see many, many more countries – a lot more than people expect and perhaps a lot sooner than people expect,” he said.
He spoke just one day after an Israeli delegation returned from Rabat where they celebrated the resumption of Israeli ties with Morocco after a 20-year hiatus.
“You can see the Arab countries: Some have already come forward, others are coming forward,” Netanyahu told US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft and Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan when he met with them in Jerusalem.
Craft has been visiting Israel this week, prior to her departure from the UN when the Trump administration is set to leave office on January 20. She also said that there would be “many more” deals to come.
Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen has spoken of the possibility of deals with Indonesia, Oman, Mauritania, Niger and Saudi Arabia – and hinted at the possibility of an unnamed Asian country aside from Indonesia, which some have presumed to be Pakistan.
A diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post that Indonesia and Oman were the most likely countries to forge ties with Israel, noting that work on behalf of normalization with those countries was at a more advanced stage than with others.
Oman had low-level ties with Israel from 1994-2000. Indonesia has never had relations with the Jewish state, but it has had covert ties and low-level trade contacts as well as relations between the countries’ leaders. They have informal defense ties dating back to the 1970s. Indonesian leaders for decades have eyed Israel as a potential trading partner, but have not taken any more than elementary steps in that direction.
Former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin visited Indonesia in 1993 and former president Shimon Peres went there in 2000 when he was regional cooperation minister. Yamina Party head Naftali Bennett visited Indonesia when he was economic minister in 2013. And former foreign minister Silvan Shalom met with his Indonesian counterpart in New York in 2005.
Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce vice president Emanuel Shahaf told the Post that although his organization has been in existence since 2009, he had not imagined until recently that there was a potential for normalized ties.
Even “two weeks ago, I would have said this was not true,” Shahaf said. Now he believes that there is at least a 50% chance that it could occur.
He has long believed in the economic potential of relations with the country, and his organization assists Israelis who want to do business there. Israel has a trade representative in Singapore who also works on this matter, he said.
RELATIONS WITH Israel would benefit the Indonesian economy, whose agriculture sector is struggling and could benefit from Israeli innovation in that area, as well as in medicine and energy, Shahaf explained.
Should Saudi Arabia normalize ties with Israel, it would be easier for Indonesia to do so, because the country already looks to Mecca for spiritual guidance and its actions sway Indonesian public policy, he said.
This fall, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates ratified normalized deals with Israel under the US brokered Abraham Accords, with Sudan declaring its intent to do so.
On Tuesday, an Israeli delegation headed by National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, signed four memorandums of understanding and a general declaration with Moroccan officials in the capital Rabat. The agreements mark the resumption of ties that were severed two decades ago.
Israel and Morocco had low level ties from 1994-2000 that have now been resumed, with an agreement to open the liaison offices that had existed in Rabat and Tel Aviv. Unlike 20 years ago, the countries plan to eventually have full-fledged, formal diplomatic ties.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, in an interview with i24, said that resumption of ties has been two years in the making.
“Since 2018, there have been many contact points, as instructed by His Majesty the King [Mohammed VI]... His Excellency spoke with the president of the United States and sent delegations to the United States, not only to meet with the Americans, but also with the Israelis.”
Bourita was asked during the interview about the discreet contacts and the rumor that he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly.
“The main feature of Moroccan diplomacy is that we work with complete discretion. Morocco has never been a braggart,” he told i24 News. “It is very clear that the Moroccan model has inspired peace efforts. In Morocco, the idea of living together, Jews and Muslims living side by side, is not just an idea: It is a reality. It is part of our history, a reality that Moroccans lived in during the history of Morocco.”
The two countries, he said, have committed to fulfilling the terms of the agreement, he said.
Bourita said that he believed his country could have ties with Israel while continuing to support the Palestinian cause.
“Protecting the Palestinian interest is not contrary to our cooperation with Israel,” Bourita said, recalling his firm and unchanged position regarding the Palestinian issue and the need to preserve the special character of the city of Jerusalem for the three religions, as well as the status of the king as president of the al-Quds (Jerusalem) Committee and supporting peace and stability in the Middle East.
Sarah Chemla contributed to this report.