Barring the Indonesian Foreign Minister? This Is Israeli Diplomacy?

The Palestinians now have a new consulate and a pledge for cooperation from Indonesia, while Israel is left with the hollow sound of it patting itself on the shoulder.

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

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was forced to dedicate the new honorary Indonesian consulate in Palestine in the Jordanian capital of Amman and not in Ramallah, as planned. That is because Israel did not allow the Jordanian Air Force helicopter that was to have flown her to Ramallah to cross the border.

The governments pretext came as no surprise: If the minister is not willing to visit Jerusalem, she will not visit Palestine. Thus the minister will know who really controls the territory, and who needs to be begged if one wants to visit occupied Palestine.

Israel does not have diplomatic ties with the largest Muslim country in the world, and so there is no reason whatsoever to force the Indonesian minister to visit Israel. And yet, despite the lack of formal ties, Indonesia maintains trade relations with Israel that in 2015 amounted to more than $195 million. While this is not a huge sum, if one adds to it Israeli tourism to that island nation, the impression is that this Muslim country is willing to maintain a pragmatic policy that does not boycott Israel.

That willingness clashed this week with Israels arrogance, which continues to incur major damage to the countrys image. Israel cannot claim that the visit and the establishment of the consulate constitute formal recognition of the Palestinian state; numerous foreign consulates already operate in the Palestinian Authority, and Palestine already has non-member observer state status at the United Nations.

Neither can Israel claim that representatives of an enemy country must not cross its air space, because Indonesia is not an enemy. Thus it has only one excuse left: Anyone who does not visit Jerusalem cannot visit Palestine. But that excuse is a rickety one, because ministers from Arab countries have already visited the PA without visiting Jerusalem.

It is surprising that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is wont to scatter broad hints about cooperation between Israel and Muslim countries, and has a vision of Israel as a regional partner with the moderate countries of the region, which like him, oppose Iran, would prohibit the foreign minister of such an important Muslim country from visiting Ramallah.

What good did it do Israel to prevent the visit, and what damage did it do the Palestinians? The Palestinians now have a new consulate and a pledge for cooperation from Indonesia, while Israel is left with the hollow sound of it patting itself on the shoulder.

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