Indonesia–Israel relations

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Indonesia–Israel relations
Map indicating locations of Indonesia and Israel



Indonesia–Israel relations refers to the historical and current bilateral relationship between Israel and Indonesia. The two countries maintain no formal diplomatic ties,[1] although they maintain quiet trade, tourism and security contacts. In 2012, Indonesia spoke of upgrading relations with Israel and opening a consulate in Ramallah,[2] but this agreement was never implemented.

According to a 2017 BBC World Service Poll, 64% of Indonesians viewed Israel's influence negatively, compared to only 9% expressing a positive view.[3]

Some 30,000 Christian pilgrims from Indonesia visit Israel annually, spending an average of five days in the country.[4]


Indonesia purchased over 30 Douglas A-4 Skyhawks from Israel in the early 1980s, despite no recognition or diplomatic relations.[5]

While not inherently opposed to Israel, Indonesia does not want to provoke radical Islamist elements at home. A precedent was set by President Sukarno, who brushed aside Israeli overtures and eventually adopted a strong pro-Arab policy as part of his anti-colonialist worldview.[6] The notable incident was the expulsion of Israel and the Republic of China (Taiwan) from the 1962 Asian Games held in Jakarta. Because of the pressure from Arab countries and the People's Republic of China, the Indonesian government refused to issue visas for the Israeli and Taiwanese delegations, thus refused the entry of delegations from Israel.[7]

Military and intelligence ties were opened through unofficial channels, especially Iran and Turkey, in 1968. In 1971, Indonesian and Israeli military officers are believed to have started negotiations on transfer of military hardware and sharing of intelligence on global Communist terrorist groups. In November the following year, some counter-battery radars for accurate artillery fire were bought by the Indonesian military from the Israel Military Industries. In March 1974, a team of 27 officers and 90 soldiers from the Indonesian Army were sent to study a 2-month course to Israel on artillery radar and land surveillance, as well as ELINT and SIGINT from the Israeli Defence Forces. In January 1975, the Indonesian Navy and Indonesian Air Force sent a 60-man team to Israel to learn special insertion and covert operations from Shayetet 13 and the Israeli Navy. The result was the establishment of a Special Forces Training School to train small units of the Kopassus in airborne and seaborne insertion, in November 1975. In August 1976, Indonesian and Israeli Chiefs of Air Staff met during a supposedly coincidental visit to Tehran to discuss the Indonesian procurement of 35 Douglas A-4 Skyhawk fighter aircraft from Israel, which were ultimately delivered in 1981-82.

In 1993, Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin met Indonesian President Suharto at his private residence in Jakarta. This, what press said was Rabin's unscheduled visit, happened during Suharto's chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement and shortly after the Oslo Accords.[8] This was the first ever high-profile meeting between both leaders.

In 1999, after the fall of New Order, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid and Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab mentioned their wishes to open ties with Israel although only at the level of economic and trade links.[9] Wahid believed that Indonesia has no reason to be against Israel. He pointed to the fact that Indonesia has "long-term relationships" with China and the Soviet Union, two countries he viewed as having atheism as part of their constitutions, and further explained that Israel "has a reputation as a nation with a high regard for God and religion."[10] However, after Wahid's removal from office in 2001, no effort was maintained to improve the relations between Indonesia and Israel.[6]

In 2005, Indonesia said that establishing full diplomatic ties with Israel will only be possible after peace has been reached between Israel and Palestine.[11] Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom held a discreet first meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda during a UN summit in New York City in September 2005.[2] However, President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ruled out establishing formal diplomatic ties but said: "Any communication between Indonesian and Israeli officials will be oriented to the objective of assisting the Palestinian people in gaining their independence".[12]

In 2006, Indonesia and several Islamic groups in the country condemned Israel's ongoing military operation in Gaza and demanded the release of arrested Palestinian officials,[13] and also called on Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon during the 2006 Lebanon War. The Indonesian Foreign Ministry advised that the national tennis team was pulling out of its Fed Cup matches in Israel, saying "We are witnessing a military invasion by Israel and the arrest of scores of Palestinian officials...It is now impossible to play there".[14]

In a visit to Singapore in 2006, the Israeli Arab diplomat Ali Yahya called for direct ties between Israel and Indonesia. In an interview with the Jakarta Post he said,

I misunderstand why the relationship between the majorities of Muslims in Asia is hostile to Israel. If it is because of Israel and Palestine, then (how can it be reconciled that) we have peace with Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, but not with eastern Asia?

We protect the holy places in Israel, respect the Arabic language, and bring imams and rabbis together to have discussions. I am posing a question if the Muslim countries in Asia can open the gate to their country for us, so that we can open up relations with them.

There are so many opportunities in Israel and by stressing the need for cooperation we would like to get these countries to also have a share of these opportunities. But to do that, we need to have the opportunity to talk directly to these countries, which I hope, will come up soon.[15]

In 2008, the Jakarta Post printed a letter from Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Majalli Wahabi, urging Indonesia to take a role in advocating for peace in the Middle East. Analysts suggested that the printing of the letter might be a signal of a thaw between the two nations.[16] However, the Gaza War that lasted from late December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009 affected relations. Indonesia harshly condemned Israeli actions, labeling it as "aggression", and expressed its support of the Palestinians.

In March 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for normalization of ties with Indonesia, citing "many opportunities for bilateral cooperation" and adding that reasons preventing relationship between the two countries were no longer relevant.[17] However, Indonesia refused, stating that it will only consider normalization if Palestinian independence is fulfilled.[18]


In 2008, Indonesia signed a medical cooperation agreement with Israel's national emergency medical service worth USD $200,000.[19]

In 2012, Indonesia agreed to informally upgrade its relations with Israel and to open a consulate in Ramallah, headed by a diplomat with the rank of ambassador, who also would have unofficially served as his country’s ambassador for contacts with Israel. The move, which had been agreed upon after five years of sensitive deliberations, would have represented a de facto upgrading of relations between the two countries. Indonesia had formally presented the move to open a West Bank consulate as a demonstration of its support for Palestinian independence. In fact, while the ambassador-ranked diplomat was supposed to be accredited to the Palestinian Authority/PLO, a significant portion of his work would have been in dealings with Israel, and the office would have fulfilled substantial diplomatic duties as well as consular responsibilities. After Israel denied the Indonesian foreign minister entry to Ramallah in 2012, Indonesia backed out from the agreement and the consulate in Ramallah was not opened. Despite the absence of formal diplomatic relations, Israel and Indonesia quietly maintain trade, security and other relations which, however have been quietly deteriorating ever since the Middle East Peace Process has been stalled.

Tourism and travel[edit]

Israeli citizens are eligible for visas to Indonesia for single entry group tourist travel and single entry business travel. For Indonesians, tourist visas to Israel are only available for group travel through travel agencies.[2] In May 2018, Indonesia barred Israeli passport holders from entering the country, which Israel reciprocated,[20] although not for all types of visas.[21] A month later, both countries reversed their tourism bans.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat (11 March 2015). "The Quiet Growth in Indonesia-Israel Relations". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Adams, Kayla J. (6 July 2012). "Indonesia to informally upgrade its relations with Israel via ambassador-ranked diplomat in Ramallah". The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on 25 November 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  3. ^ "Sharp Drop in World Views of US, UK: Global Poll" (PDF). BBC. 4 July 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 December 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b Bachner, Michael (27 June 2018). "Israel reverses ban on Indonesian tourists after officials protest". The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on 28 June 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  5. ^ "Trainer Jets for Israel: From the Skyhawk, to the M-346 Lavi". Defense Industry Daily. 27 July 2016. Archived from the original on 29 June 2017. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  6. ^ a b Rubenstein, Colin (1 March 2005). "Indonesia And Israel: A Relationship In Waiting". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  7. ^ Barker, Philip (19 August 2018). "Controversy ruled the last time Jakarta hosted the Asian Games in 1962". Inside the Games. Archived from the original on 19 December 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Rabin confers with Indonesian leader in surprise move". United Press International. 15 October 1993. Archived from the original on 19 December 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Controversy over Indonesia-Israel relations". The Jakarta Post. 20 November 1999. Archived from the original on 13 August 2009.
  10. ^ Odenheimer, Micha (7 July 2004). "A Friend of Israel in the Islamic World". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 6 December 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  11. ^ "Indonesia-Israel ties said "possible"". The Jakarta Post. Jakarta. September 20, 2005.
  12. ^ "Indonesia rules out diplomatic ties with Israel, reaffirms pro-Palestine stand".
  13. ^ "Indonesia condemns Israeli offensive". The Jakarta Post. 3 July 2006. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015.
  14. ^ "Indonesia pulls out of Fed Cup tennis in Israel to protest Gaza". USA Today. 4 July 2006. Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  15. ^ Diplomat says Israel open to direct ties with Indonesia. BBC Monitoring International Reports| January 27, 2006, Source: The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, in English 26 Jan 2006 [1]
  16. ^ "Israeli-Indonesian Entree", Dateline World Jewry, World Jewish Congress, July/August 2008
  17. ^ Tamar Pileggi (28 March 2016). "Netanyahu calls for normalizing ties with Indonesia". The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on 25 December 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  18. ^ Desi Angriani (29 March 2016). "Indonesia Rejects Israel's Normalization Call". MetroTV News. Archived from the original on 3 May 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  19. ^ Nafik, Muhammad (7 November 2008). "Representatives from Indonesia, Israel sign medical agreement". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 7 June 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  20. ^ Anya, Agnes (30 May 2018). "Israel bars Indonesian visitors in possible tit-for-tat". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  21. ^ Cashman, Greer Fay (10 June 2018). "Not All Indonesians Banned from Entering Israel". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 28 November 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.