Isranomics

This Unexpected Contender for Gaza Peacekeeping Could Transform Middle East Dynamics

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Politics | 0 comments

For quite some time since October 7, several nations have been contemplating participation in an international monitoring force for the Gaza Strip. Notably, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, has emerged as an unexpected contender. Since the war with Hamas began, efforts have been underway to attract Arab or Muslim countries to take on peacekeeping roles in Gaza. President-elect Prabowo Subianto, who is set to take office in October and currently serves as Indonesia’s defence minister, voiced his support for a three-phase ceasefire plan proposed by US President Joe Biden at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s central security conference. Subianto stated, “By the UN, we are ready to contribute significant peacekeeping forces to maintain and monitor the ceasefire, while providing security to all parties on all sides.”

President-elect Prabowo Subianto, who is set to take office in October and currently serves as Indonesia’s defence minister, voiced his support for a three-phase ceasefire plan proposed by US President Joe Biden at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s central security conference. Subianto stated, “By the UN, we are ready to contribute significant peacekeeping forces to maintain and monitor the ceasefire, while providing security to all parties on all sides.”

Indonesia’s presence in the Gaza Strip is not unprecedented. Approximately nine years ago, the largest hospital in northern Gaza, established by Indonesia on the outskirts of Jabaliya, was implicated in Hamas’s terrorist activities. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) raided the hospital, uncovering evidence of terrorist operations, including a van used in the October 7 attack by Hamas. Despite the raid, Indonesia did not display significant anger towards Israel, and behind the scenes, a potential normalization of Israeli-Indonesian relations has been speculated, possibly linked to Indonesia’s aspirations to join the Organization of Developed Countries (OECD). Although Jakarta has denied imminent normalization, there have been notable developments, such as Israel permitting an Indonesian Air Force plane to deliver aid to Gaza via Israeli airspace, a gesture not extended to NATO ally Turkey.

Trade relations between Israel and Indonesia, despite the absence of official diplomatic ties, are relatively stable. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the annual average volume of Israel’s imports from Indonesia between 2012 and 2022 was about $73.2 million. In 2022, the import volume reached $77.1 million, though the OECD reported a significantly higher figure of $187 million, highlighting complexities in trade logistics where goods often transit through third countries.

Indonesia’s strategic importance extends beyond its population size. It controls the Strait of Malacca, a crucial shipping lane for international trade, particularly with China. This route sees goods worth approximately $3.5 trillion annually. Indonesia’s neighbour, Malaysia, has restricted the docking of Israeli-connected ships since December, impacting Israeli shipping companies. In contrast, normalized relations with Indonesia could greatly benefit Israel’s maritime trade and naval operations.

Establishing diplomatic relations with Indonesia could significantly enhance trade, similar to the economic boost experienced between Israel and the United Arab Emirates following the Abraham Accords in 2020.

The normalization of relations between Israel and Indonesia holds the potential for a significant domino effect throughout the region and beyond. As the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia’s formal recognition of Israel could encourage other predominantly Muslim nations to reevaluate their stances, potentially leading to broader regional cooperation and stability. The economic benefits could be substantial, with increased trade and investment opportunities on both sides.

Furthermore, Israel’s robust high-tech industry could find a new and dynamic partner in Indonesia. Collaborative ventures in technology, innovation, and digital infrastructure could flourish, driving advancements in sectors such as cybersecurity, agriculture, healthcare, and education. The synergy between Israel’s technological prowess and Indonesia’s growing market could pave the way for groundbreaking developments, fostering mutual growth and prosperity.

Photo credit: AFP/Nhac Nguyen

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