". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Most Populous Muslim-Majority Country to Normalize Diplomatic Relations with Israel

April 11, 2024

The most populous Muslim-majority has agreed to normalize relations with Israel, according to Israeli news outlet Ynet. The news comes “after three months of secret talks” regarding a bid by Indonesia to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Israel normalized relations with four Muslim-majority countries (Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and U.A.E.) as part of the Abraham Accords promoted by the Trump administration, but further talks have not borne fruit since 2021.

The OECD Council decided on February 20, 2024 to open discussions with Indonesia regarding that nation joining the international trade and development organization, which is a “multi-year process.” At the same time, it reaffirmed that Indonesia could join without “unanimous” support from the organization’s 38 member states.

One of the OECD member states is Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz initially objected to Indonesia’s membership, per Ynet, and refused to remove his objection unless Indonesia made a gesture toward Israel. Indonesia and the OECD eventually agreed to include the stipulation that, before Indonesia joins the organization, it must establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

Earlier negotiations to normalize relations stalled after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, according to the Times of Israel, and Indonesia chose to back South Africa’s charge at the International Court of Justice that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. The Times also said that anti-Semitic protests are common in Indonesia, as they have been around the world since Hamas’s terror attack.

However, Israel allowed Indonesian planes into its airspace as part of an airdrop of humanitarian supplies to Gaza, which may be a first step towards establishing relations.

Indonesia is the fourth-most populous nation in the world, behind only India, China, and the U.S., with more than 277 million people in 2023. Its population is 82% of that of America and twice that of Russia. The archipelago nation is overwhelmingly Muslim (87%), though not Arab, and it has a significant Christian minority (10.5%). Its annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) totals $1.5 trillion, making it the world’s 16th largest economy.

The OECD is a Western-dominated economic organization whose members must maintain a commitment to democratic government and free markets. The organization includes the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and most nations in northern, western, and southern Europe, as well as a smattering of nations in Latin America and elsewhere. Current members in the far east include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. Israel and Turkey are the only Middle Eastern members of the OECD.

Russia and China are not members of the OECD. Russia was never a full member, but its partial participation was suspended over its invasion of Ukraine.

The news that Indonesia is pursing normalized relations comes at a critical time for Israel as the country continues to face international pressure to abandon its goal of eradicating the Hamas terrorist network in Gaza. Even once solid supporters of Israel, like the U.S. government, are now wavering in their support. That a large, influential, Muslim-majority would seek to improve relations with Israel now indicates that their international standing is not as bleak as might otherwise appear.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.