Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on a two-hour detour while en route to Australia from Singapore this week, apparently to avoid airspace belonging to Indonesia, with which Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations.
Netanyahu landed in Sydney on Wednesday for a four-day state visit, the first from a sitting Israeli prime minister, after spending two days in Singapore.
The prime minister’s total time on the El Al flight from Singapore to Sydney was 11 hours and 3 minutes, a journey that usually takes about 8.5 hours, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.
The El Al flight left Singapore, traveling in an arc over Indonesia, north toward the Philippines, and down over Papua New Guinea before landing in Sydney.
A member of Netanyahu’s delegation confirmed the travel route to the UK’s Guardian newspaper on Thursday.
El Al, Israel’s national carrier, is barred from flying into the airspace of many Muslim states, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.
Israel has no official ties with Indonesia — which has the world’s largest Muslim population — although some travel between the countries seems to exist.
Last year, Netanyahu told a delegation of visiting Indonesian journalists that there should be normalized ties between Jerusalem and Jakarta.
“It’s time for there to be official relations between Indonesia and Israel. We have many opportunities for bilateral cooperation, especially in the fields of water technology and high-tech,” he said last March.
Jakarta is a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause and is not thought to be considering warmer relationship with Jerusalem, though it did extend, in December 2015, a visa-free policy to Israeli travelers and those from 83 other countries in a bid to increase tourism.