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Indonesia 'willing to normalise ties with Israel' in bid to join OECD: Report

Jakarta requires unanimous approval from 38 member states, including Israel, to gain membership to trade organisation
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators take part on a rally in front of the US embassy in Jakarta on 17 December 2023 (AFP/Bay Ismoyo)
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators take part on a rally in front of the US embassy in Jakarta on 17 December 2023 (AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

Indonesia is willing to normalise relations with Israel in exchange for Israeli approval of its request to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), according to a report in Israel's Ynet News on Thursday. 

However, Indonesia later denied the report.

Additions of new countries to the intergovernmental organisation require unanimous approval from all 38 current member states. 

Israel, an OECD member, has opposed Indonesia joining due to the lack of formal relations and Jakarta's past criticisms of Israeli actions. 

Three months of negotiations have taken place between the two countries, overseen on the Israeli side by Foreign Minister Israel Katz, Ynet reported.

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During the talks, Katz cited Indonesia's criticisms of Israel since war broke out in Gaza on 7 October, and Jakarta's support of South Africa's case at the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of committing genocide in the enclave. 

Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, reportedly agreed to a stipulation that it would have to establish diplomatic ties with Israel in order for a vote to take place to approve its membership of the OECD. 

"I am pleased to announce the Council has officially agreed to the clear and explicit early conditions according to which Indonesia must establish diplomatic relations with all OECD member countries before any decision is made to admit it to the OECD," Mathias Cormann, OECD secretary-general, wrote in a letter to Katz seen by Ynet.

"Any future decision to accept Indonesia as a member of the organisation will require unanimous agreement among all member countries, including Israel."

In a response letter sent on Wednesday, Katz wrote: "I share your expectation that this process will constitute a change for Indonesia, as I anticipate a positive change in its policy toward Israel, especially abandoning its hostile policy toward it, leading the path to full diplomatic relations between all sides."

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While Indonesia does not officially have ties with Israel, a covert relationship has long existed between the countries. 

Former Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres have both visited Indonesia, in 1993 and 2000, while Naftali Bennett visited in 2013 as then-economy minister. 

In 2018, Indonesia began accepting tourist visa applications from Israelis, Haaretz reported

As part of the so-called Abraham Accords, spearheaded by former US President Donald Trump in 2020, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco normalised relations with Israel. 

Indonesia, like several other Muslim-majority countries, has maintained that it would only recognise Israel once an independent Palestinian state was established. 

Huge protests have taken place in Indonesia since 7 October against Israel's war on Gaza.

Last year, Indonesia was stripped of its role as host of the men's under-20 World Cup, reportedly due to domestic backlash over the participation of Israel's team. 

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