Israel keen on ties with SE Asia's Muslim-majority states

Israel keen to normalise ties with Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei: ambassador
2 min read
18 June, 2021
Israel's ambassador to Singapore says the Jewish state is 'willing to talk' to Southeast Asia's Muslim-majority states.
Public opinion remains overwhelmingly opposed to normalisation in Southeast Asia's muslim-majority states [Getty]

Israel is keen to establish ties with Muslim-majority states in Southeast Asia, Israel's ambassador to Singapore said on Thursday.

At present, Muslim-majority Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei have no formal diplomatic relations with the Jewish state and have long been critical of its treatment of Palestinians.

Last month, the three states issued a joint statement at the United Nations condemning “the atrocities carried out against the Palestinian people” as Israel carried out a bombing campaign which killed more than 250 Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel's ambassador to Singapore, Sagi Karni, said criticism from the three states was "not honest" and did not reflect the "true nature of the conflict", which he claimed was between Israel and Hamas.

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“Hamas is an anti-Semitic organisation … I’m not sure that many of the people participating in social media debates truly understand the radical and fascist nature of Hamas,” he said to Reuters.

Establishing ties with Israel, Karni claimed, is the only way for outside parties to have significant impact on the Middle East.

“We are willing to talk, we are willing to meet, and the door is open as far as we are concerned. I don’t think it’s so difficult to find us,” he said, referring to Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Last year, it was reported that Indonesia could receive billions of dollars in US funding if it agreed to normalise relations with Israel.

US International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam Boehler told Bloomberg in December that the body could more than double its current $1 billion portfolio in the world's most populous Muslim nation if Jakarta establishes ties with Tel Aviv.

"We're talking to them about it," Boehler said at the time. "If they're ready, they're ready and if they are then we'll be happy to even support more financially than what we do."

Public opinion in Southeast Asia's Muslim-majority states, however, remains overwhelmingly opposed to Israel, with many thousands having taken to the streets against US-brokered normalisation deals and Israeli military action.

During last Israel's 11-day onslaught against Gaza last month, Israeli air strikes partially damaged an Indonesian-funded hospital in northern Gaza.

After similar damage caused to the facility by Israeli strikes in 2018, Indonesian President Joko Widodo Indonesia would "always be behind the Palestinians in fighting for their independence. There is no turning back."