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Israel and Indonesia: What lies ahead

If you look at the trade between Israel and Turkey which is around US$ 6 billion, you can see what can be achieved. The biggest potential is in agriculture.

31 Desember 2020 09:42
Emanuel Shahaf, Vice Chairman of Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce. (mei.edu)
Emanuel Shahaf

Vice Chairman of Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce

Recent weeks have been full of leaks or purported leaks regarding impending diplomatic relations between Israel and Indonesia. While the situation is still not clear, there is circumstantial evidence that in the not too distant future, conceivably even before the new administration in Washington takes over, official relations of some sort may be established between Jakarta and Jerusalem.

The establishment of orderly and open relations, be they diplomatic or only commercial (the Taiwan model), has been long overdue. In reality, Israel and Indonesia have maintained commercialand other relations for decades, mostly behind the scenes. Over the years, Indonesians have been exposed to Israeli products and technology to an ever increasing degree, sometimes without knowing that they are Israeli.

Hopefully this situation will change now and both countries will be able to move slowly but surely to fully exploit the many opportunities that will arise from the formalization of relations. The potential for growth in bilateral trade, presently pegged at US$ 500 million both ways, 80 percents Indonesian exports to Israel, cannot be exaggerated.

If you look at the trade between Israel and Turkey which is around US$ 6 billion, you can see what can be achieved. The biggest potential is in agriculture. Indonesian agriculture is mostly traditional and provides a livelihood to many people all over the country.

Improving agricultural methods using Israeli know-how and technologies will have a considerable impact on Indonesia as a whole and will help increase income for many families. Emphasis could be on trickle irrigation for rice paddies so the land isn't flooded and can be used for cash crops in the off season, intensive hothouse agriculture and dairy farming.

Another area of interest for both sides are medical technologies and public health. Israel has a highly developed public health system which is proving its mettle under the COVID-19 pandemic, close cooperation will be useful for both sides. Educational methods and technology with emphasis on distance learning are another field of potential cooperation and trade which would benefit the Indonesian educational system.

Renewable energy, wasted water processing, water treatment and processing are additional areas of Israeli expertise, not to talk about fintech (software for the financial sector) and cyber defence and, of course, military technology. And all of you who worry that establishing relations with Israel is hurting the Palestinian cause, it's not.

In the long run, close relations with Israel will permit the Indonesian government to take a proactive position and promote the Palestinian cause much more actively and assertively than without those relations. This is a step, if taken, will have no downside and both sides will never look back.

This opinion sent by Emanuel Shahaf for Albalad.co via faisalassegaf@yahoo.com

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