A team of Israeli diplomats recently visited Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country that has never had diplomatic relations with the Jewish state and that has maintained a staunch pro-Palestinian policy in international forums, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.
A senior-level Israeli delegation attended a week-long conference in Kuala Lumpur, hosted by the United Nations Human Settlements Program, known as UN-Habitat, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said, confirming a report by Hadashot TV.
The first-of-its-kind visit was headed by diplomat David Roet, who has served as Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Nahshon said. The Hadashot report said the delegation also included former minister Ofir Pines and other senior Foreign Ministry officials.
Malaysia was compelled to host the Israelis, since it was required to grant visas to all delegations in order to hold the international conference, the report added.
Roet “entered Malaysia with an Israeli diplomatic passport, participated in the conference with other Israeli representatives and also met Malaysian officials,” the Foreign Ministry added.
While the countries have no formal ties and Israelis are not normally allowed to enter Malaysia, official data published in 2014 by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) told of a booming, but very discreet, trade relationship totaling some $1.5 billion per year.
Roet himself posted a series of tweets with photos from his visit, saying he had found “many similarities” between Israelis and Malaysians and expressing hope that relations between the countries improve in the future.
“Proud to have led Israel’s official delegation to the UN’s international WUF 9 meeting in Kuala Lumpur,” Roet said on Twitter, calling it a “unique experience for an Israeli diplomat to visit Malaysia.”
“I have great hopes for good relations between our two countries in the future,” he wrote, adding that he had found “many similarities between Israelis and Malaysians. A Multifaceted society of people from different backgrounds working together for a better future.”
5. Diplomacy is about teamwork. Thank you ????to the wonderful teams of @IsraelMFA????????- @IsraelinKenya & @IsraelinUN for standing strong???? for ????????Israel’s right to participate in any international forum wherever it may take place????. #WUF9 pic.twitter.com/yDp0OdVsrL
— David Roet???????? (@DavidRoet) February 12, 2018
He added that an Israeli-developed navigation app is popular in the Muslim country. “It’s a global phenomenon. Taxi drivers in Malaysia use Waze to get around Kuala Lumpur’s traffic.”
Roet thanked the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli delegations to the UN and to Kenya for “standing strong for Israel’s right to participate in any international forum, wherever it may take place,” adding that “diplomacy is about teamwork.”
Roet said an Israeli team would be sent to the conference’s next installation in Abu Dhabi in 2020, writing, “See you in two years” with a “strong Israeli team working together with the whole world finding ways for a better life to all.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.