Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely revealed at the Knesset on Wednesday that Israel barred Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi from visiting the Palestinian Authority for violating secret understandings reached between Israel and Indonesia. As per the understandings, in addition to her trip to the PA, Marsudi was also expected to travel to Jerusalem and meet with senior Israeli officials.
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If the terms had been met, it would have been a first visit by an Indonesian foreign minister to Israel.
Hotovely made the remarks at the Knesset plenum in response to a question submitted by MK Ahmad Tibi of the United Arab List. "Why was the visit prevented," Tibi asked, "and what is the Israeli government's policy with regard to the entry of foreign ministers to the Palestinian Authority?"
The deputy foreign minister said that the director of the Foreign Ministry's Asia Division, Mark Sofer, visited Jakarta secretly a few days prior to Marsudi's planned trip in an effort to reach understandings with regard to the visit.
"There had been a clear understanding that [Marsudi's] visit to Ramallah would also include a visit to Israel and a meeting with senior officials in Jerusalem," Hotovely said. "It was a general understanding regarding any visit to Israel. Visits to the Palestinian Authority are made under terms of reciprocity – a visit to Jerusalem, and a visit to Ramallah."
Hotovely noted that the Indonesian foreign minister violated the agreement and decided to skip the trip to Jerusalem.
"She understood that she is going against the rules that Israel had set," Hotovely stated. "Despite the fact that Indonesia doesn't have official diplomatic ties with us, Israel has much respect for the Indonesian people and its leaders. We have maintained contacts with Indonesia on a series of issues, and we are taking action toward improving the ties all the time."
The deputy foreign minister said that the rule Israel had set by which a senior foreign official who wants to visit the Palestinian Authority must visit Israel as well is true for all countries, regardless of whether they have diplomatic relations with Israel.
"Indonesia is no exception in this context," Hotovely said. "Every visit by a senior member of the international community must also pass through Jerusalem."
Tibi replied to Hotovely that the policy she presented proves that Israel is an occupier in the territories and has control over who enters or leaves the Palestinian Authority. "Why should you interfere? This is a state which has been recognized as such by the UN," Tibi said.
Hotovely replied to Tibi that the Indonesian foreign minister "flagrantly violated" understandings reached with Israel ahead of her visit. "When there are understandings between countries which have channels for secret relations and these are violated, then don't be surprised if you wind up preventing yourself from visiting the Palestinian Authority."
Marsudi announced her intention to visit the PA a week ago, after the Islamic summit conference in Jakarta. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the same summit, where he met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who said that products originating from the “illegal Israeli settlements” in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights should be boycotted. The statement was also included as a clause in the summary of the conference.
The Indonesian foreign minister was travelling to Ramallah to dedicate an honorary Indonesian consulate to the PA and to meet with her Palestinian counterpart, Riyad al Maliki, as well as President Abbas. Due to Israel’s decision not to allow Marsudi to go to Ramallah, Al Maliki said he would go to Amman, Jordan to meet her.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, with its Muslim population estimated at about 200 million. There are no diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Israel, but there are ties involving trade and tourism. Israeli businessmen frequently visit the country, and senior Israeli government officials have also travelled there. In December 2013, then-Economy Minister Naftali Bennett visited Indonesia. Indonesian businessmen visit Israel as well. Next week a delegation of senior Indonesian journalists are scheduled to arrive in Israel, at the invitation of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.