Calvin Sidjaya, Jerusalem Post
Indonesia’s refusal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel is based on political pragmatism.
[C]ultural difference ... hampers ... diplomatic engagement. Israel’s public diplomacy is characterized as outspoken and brash while Indonesia prefers avoiding open conflict, opting for harmonious engagements instead. This cultural clash was evident in March 2016, when Israel publicly denied Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi entry to Ramallah due to her refusal to visit Jerusalem to meet with the Israeli government. This diplomatic incident must not be taken lightly as it was considered boorish and coarse from Indonesia’s perspective.
Less than a month after the incident, the Israeli Foreign Ministry posted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had invited several Indonesian senior journalists to Israel and called for official diplomatic relations between Israel and Indonesia. Unfortunately, this gesture again irked Indonesian decision makers and antagonized Israel further as Indonesia did not want to publicize its informal ties with Israel and prefers more discretion in the dispensing of such information.
What is acceptable for Israeli diplomacy might not be accepted by Indonesia’s diplomatic tradition and cultural standards. If Israel truly desires to establish diplomatic relations with Indonesia, it should make concrete efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the Palestine issue and be more aware of the complex influence of political Islam in Indonesia’s domestic politics and foreign policy. Clearly, Indonesian media could also help in humanizing Israel’s public image by deconstructing the narrative of Israel-Palestine issues. Diplomatic recognition from and cordial ties with the world’s largest Muslim majority country would benefit Israel’s efforts to normalize relations with other countries in the Muslim word. ...
[I]t is clear that people-to-people relations are the best way to humanize Israel’s public image in Indonesia and hold great potential to bring both countries closer together for the benefit of their people.