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Blinken said to discuss Israel-Indonesia normalization during visit to Jakarta

Report says US secretary of state raised the idea last week with senior officials, but Israeli sources expect no immediate breakthrough

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the Pancasila Building in Jakarta, December 14, 2021. (Olivier Douliery/Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the Pancasila Building in Jakarta, December 14, 2021. (Olivier Douliery/Pool Photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week discussed with senior Indonesian officials the possibility of the world’s largest Muslim country establishing diplomatic ties with Israel, although no immediate breakthrough is expected, according to a report Thursday.

Visiting the Indonesian capital Jakarta, Blinken raised the idea of the country joining the Abraham Accords brokered under the previous US administration of former president Donald Trump, which have seen Israel normalize relations with four Arab countries.

The report, by the Walla and Axios news websites, cited Israeli officials familiar with the discussions, who assessed that no imminent breakthrough was likely.

It also quoted a senior US official saying Joe Biden’s administration was working “quietly but quite assiduously” to expand the Abraham Accords, adding that it could take time.

The report cited State Department spokesperson Ned Price commenting, “We are always exploring additional opportunities for normalization, but we’ll leave those discussions behind closed doors until the right moment.”

It added that Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the Indonesian Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Last month, Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Bahrain spoke with Indonesia’s defense minister in a rare public interaction between officials from the countries, which have never had formal diplomatic ties. The encounter between Itay Tagner and Prabowo Subianto took place on the sidelines of Bahrain’s annual Manama Dialogue conference.

Itay Tagner, Israel’s chargé d’affaires to Bahrain (left), speaks with Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto during the 17th IISS Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama, on November 20, 2021. (Mazen Mahdi/AFP)

Additionally, National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata met briefly during the same conference with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, exchanging business cards with him, according to Walla.

US officials told The Times of Israel earlier this year that the Trump administration had Indonesia and Mauritania lined up to be the next Muslim countries to normalize relations with Israel, but ran out of time. A deal with Jakarta could have been inked if Trump had another month or two in office, US officials said at the time.

With a population of over 270 million, Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country. That gave it “extra symbolic importance,” to the Trump administration, which maintained that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict need not be a hindrance to peace between the Jewish state and the Muslim and Arab worlds, a US official explained.

Indonesia’s president tried to tamp down speculation at the time, telling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that his country would not normalize ties with Israel until a Palestinian state had been established.

Jacob Magid and agencies contributed to this report.

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