PM Netanyahu and the Indonesian journalists. (Haim Tzach/GPO) (Haim Tzach/GPO)
PM Netanyahu and Indonesian journalists

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for official relations with Indonesia, a country with the largest Muslim population and often hostile to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Monday with a delegation of senior Indonesian journalists who are visiting Israel at the initiative of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and called for open and official ties with the largest Muslim country in the world, for the benefit of both parties.

“The time has come for official relations between Indonesia and Israel,” Netanyahu told the journalists.

Pointing to Israel’s “excellent relations with several countries in Asia,” and particularly China, Japan, India and Vietnam, Netanyahu said Israel and Indonesia can also find common ground, such as in opportunities to cooperate in the fields of water and technology.

“In addition, Israel is also deepening its relations with Africa, Latin America and Russia. Relations with the Arab world are also changing. Indeed, we are allies in the fight against radical Islam,” the premier stated, adding that relations between Israel and Indonesia “must also change.”

“I have more than a few Indonesian friends on Facebook. The time has come to change our relations; the reasons that prevented this are no longer relevant and I hope that your visit will help with this,” he told the reporters, who are official guests of the State of Israel.

Indonesia maintains no official diplomatic relations with Israel, and at times has exhibited hostility towards the Jewish State.

At the beginning of March Indonesia‘s president urged a summit of Muslim nations to unite against Israel and to be part of the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as he termed it, rather than part of the problem.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the entire world is concerned by the deterioration of the situation in “Palestine” and criticized what he called Israel’s “unilateral and illegal policies.”

Last summer, the Muslim country hosted the world badminton championships and refused to admit an Israeli player, until the Badminton World Federation (BWF) intervened and forced the country to enable the Israeli sportsman to attend the games.

More recently, Israel denied Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi access to the Palestinian Authority (PA) via Israel over her refusal to visit Israeli officials in Jerusalem.

However, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely revealed earlier this month that Israel and Indonesia share secret, unofficial diplomatic ties.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel