Israel Prevents Indonesian FM From Entering Ramallah After She Refuses to Visit Jerusalem

Move to prevent Retno Marsudi from entering Palestinian Authority is a departure from current Israeli policy regarding visits by foreign officials to Palestinian territories.

Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi talks during an annual news conference at her office in Jakarta, January 7, 2016.
Reuters

Israel prevented Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi from entering the Palestinian Authority on Sunday. Haaretz has learned that the decision not to allow Marsudi to go to Ramallah was made in light of her refusal to also visit Jerusalem to meet with members of the Israeli government. The two countries have no diplomatic relations.

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.

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry refused to discuss the ban on Marsudi’s entry to the PA. But Haaretz has learned that there were quiet contacts between the Indonesian and Israeli governments on the issue in recent days. Although there are no diplomatic ties between Israel and Indonesia, officials explained that if Marsudi was interested in visiting Ramallah, she would have to visit Jerusalem and meet with government officials.

The move is a departure from the current Israeli policy regarding visits by foreign officials to the Palestinian Territories. A few years ago, Israel changed its policy and decided not to allow foreign ministers from Western states or countries with which it has diplomatic relations to enter the PA without also visiting Israel. In November 2014, for example, Israel prevented the Colombian foreign minister from visiting Ramallah.

However, Israel did allow foreign ministers from Arab and Muslim countries to travel to Ramallah undisturbed even if they wouldn’t be visiting Israel. For instance, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh visited Ramallah and Bethlehem, as did ministers, MPs and government officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and other countries. The decision regarding the Indonesian foreign minister sets a precedent.

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.