Ask any Indonesian which country they hate the most and many (particularly Muslims) would probably say Israel.
(And that’s not just our conjecture — a BBC World Service Poll from 2014 showed that 75% of Indonesians view Israel’s influence negatively.)
Indonesia holds no formal diplomatic relations with Israel, particularly since the world’s biggest Muslim nation has always staunchly supported Palestine’s cause of becoming an independent state.
That probably had something to do with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent convoluted travel plans.
Netanyahu flew from Singapore to Sydney in an overnight flight yesterday. If you know your geography, you’re aware that Indonesia lies directly between Singapore and Australia. But, as reported in The Guardian, Netanyahu’s flight avoided Indonesian airspace altogether, adding at least two hours to his journey.
The Washington Post even posted an illustration of Netanyahu’s flight path, which shows that the Israeli PM’s flight took over 11 hours, compared to the 7-and-a-half hours usually needed to get from Singapore to Sydney.
Analysis: The strange route Benjamin Netanyahu took to get from Singapore to Sydneyhttps://t.co/xT0nvsYya6
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 22, 2017
But perhaps that’s to be expected. El Al — Israel’s flag carrier that operated Netanyahu’s flight — is banned from flying in the airspace of many Muslim nations, including Iran and Pakistan.
Despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, Indonesia actually sanctions some travel and trade agreements with Israel. But apparently, not enough to allow its leader to shave some time off of his long trip.
The Israeli leader made his first visit to Singapore on Monday morning, meeting up with President Tony Tan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong across two days.
PM Lee reiterated Singapore’s stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, declaring that a two-state solution is the only way to achieve peace and stability in the troubled region. Netanyahu noted that Singapore and Israel are very much kindred spirits, affirming closer relations in economic projects.
The strengthening of the cooperation between Israel and Singapore will benefit our two countries in many ways pic.twitter.com/lBdsJbIo69
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) February 20, 2017
The visit wasn’t without its controversies, of course. A Singaporean who wanted to deliver a protest letter against Israel’s settlement plans was denied from doing so at the Embassy of Israel here. Meanwhile, some Christians regarded the ‘fire rainbow‘ that appeared over the skies to be divine approval of the Israeli PM’s visit to Singapore.
Story by Coconuts Jakarta; Additional reporting by Coconuts Singapore