In the 1950s, Indonesia—the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and its fourth most populous—placed itself firmly on the side of the Arab world and what was then known as the “nonaligned bloc” against Israel. But in the 1980s, Jakarta began buying military equipment from Israel; civilian commerce, and then other forms of cooperation, followed. The two countries, however, still do not have formal diplomatic relations. Amotz Asa-El delves into this history, identifies a clear pattern of ever-warmer ties, and argues that Indonesia should, and perhaps will, follow in the footsteps of the UAE, Bahrain, and others:
Back when Indonesia chose to treat Israel as a mistress, rendezvousing with it only in the dark, the Jewish state was still ostracized by two superpowers, China and the Soviet Union, as well as the rest of the Eastern Bloc, and also India, which until 1992 refused to admit an Israeli ambassador. Today this history is so distant that to younger Israelis it sounds like prehistory.
This means that by shunning Israel the way it does, Indonesia is relegating itself to the company of economic laggards like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Indonesia, with 270 million people sprawled on more than 17,000 islands between Oceania and China, is in a position to become a major world power. Shunning Israel will not serve that cause.
Like almost any other country, Indonesia is threatened by Islamist violence. But unlike any other country, it is in a position, as the world’s largest Muslim-majority state, to inspire a great reconciliation between Islam and the rest of mankind. That is indeed what its leaders seem to be aiming for.
However, shunning the Jewish state is, for millions of Jews worldwide, an affront, and thus hampers Indonesia’s potential role as a leader of . . . interreligious reconciliation. This is Indonesia’s strategic calling, and its leaders know this. That is why the next Abraham Accords will be signed between the world’s largest Muslim domain, and only Jewish state.