I arranged and prepared the visit of Shimon Peres to Indonesia
Gus Dur and Shimon Peres had a breakfast meeting at Halim airbase in August 2000. During his visit to Jakarta, Peres also came to Taman Mini.29 Oktober 2020 02:55
Mantan Perdana Menteri dan Presiden Israel Shimon Peres dengan latar kapal berpeluru kendali. (IDF Archives)
According to his book, he did not mention in which country he resided while he was serving as the head of Mossad station in the South East Asia. But most likely he stayed in Indonesia. He held that position from July 2000 until September 2003.
Emanuel Shahaf wrote in his book title Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future that shortly after posted as the head of Mossad station in South East Asia, he was assigned to arrange and prepare for the visit of Shimon Peres. That book was launched in January this year, while its Hebrew edition was launched last year.
Finally, Peres visited Jakarta in August 2000 to meet his close friend Abdurrahman Wahid aka Gus Dur. At the time, Peres was Israel's Minister for Regional Cooperation and Gus Dur was the President of Indonesia.
The meeting between Gus Dur and Peres was held at Halim Perdanakusumah airbase. "It was a two hours meeting and actually it was more a review of the situatio in the Middle East by Shimon Peres than a discussion," said Emanuel Shahaf in an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co via WhatsApp yesterday.
How many years did you become the head of Mossad station in South East Asia?
I was head of station for three years in one of the countries under my responsibility.
How many countries under your responsibility?
What are they?
Countries in South East Asia, Faisal. I can't give you hard facts that are not mentioned in the book. The book was passed by censorship.
Include Indonesia and Malaysia?
You have to draw your own conclusions from the book
Did you stay in Indonesia?
During my years of service, I also spent time in Indonesia.
How long did you stay in Indonesia?
Enough to learn about the country.
More than a year?
I spent 3 years in the area.
So, can you speak Bahasa Indonesia fluently?
No, unfortunately not, sedikit.
Can you mention the period of your time in Indonesia? From what year to what year?
Already answered that question, I was in the area 2000-2003. Not specifically Indonesia, also Indonesia.
During your terms in South East Asia, was that your first encounter with Indonesia?
Yes, actually I had never been East of Israel before and the first time I encountered South East Asia was when I came to be head of station in the area.
What was your first impression on Indonesia at that time?
Fascinating, almost magical, amazing.
Regarding the visit of Shimon Peres to Indonesia, was it official request from Israel or from Indonesia?
I think it was Shimon Peres who was a personal friend of Gus Dur and initiated the move and asked to meet him in Jakarta.
When did the visit happen?
August 2000 if I remember correctly.
How many hours did he stay in Jakarta?
I think it was one night only. Two nights, not sure.
How many hours did he hold talks with Gus Dur and what did they discuss about?
It was a two hours meeting and actually it was more of a review of the situation in the Middle East by Shimon Peres than a discussion. Gus Dur asked a few questions but mainly let Peres talk. In the book I remarked on that.
Was there any agreement between them to strengthen a bilateral cooperation?
Nothing specific, just a general (oral) agreement to work at improving relations.
Where the talk was held?
At Halim airbase over breakfast.
Who did other officials from Indonesia and Israel accompany them?
There was one other Indonesian present, I don’t recall who, from the President’s office and other than Peres and me, there were three more Israelis present who had come with Peres to Indonesia.
Can you mention those three other Israelis?
Ambassador Oded Eran and Efrat Duvdevani, Peres’ press secretary. The other one was a colleague of mine.
What was the menu in breakfast meeting between Peres and Gus Dur?
I don’t remember but it was great like all Indonesian food.
Did Peres have a favourite Indonesian food?
Did Peres fly directly from Tel Aviv to Jakarta or did he transit in Singapore?
He came from Scandinavia but the plane made a stop in Singapore.
Did he travel by El Al to Jakarta?
No, I think it was a Scandinavian carrier.
What was your impression on Gus Dur?
I found Gus Dur to be warm, witty, a great person to talk to, knowledgeable, and always ready with a good joke. He also had an aura about him which made him special.
At the time, Shimon Peres already became prime minister?
No, he was minister of regional cooperation at the time. Barak (Ehud Barak) was Prime Minister.
As the head of Mossad station in South East Asia at the time, how did you arrange and setup Peres' secret visit to Jakarta?
I went to the office of the state secretary I believe and there we had a meeting with all the Indonesian authorities involved to prepare the visit.
Why did Gus Dur agree to meet Peres in Jakarta because it was too sensitive for muslim majority in Indonesia?
Gus Dur was never concerned about that and since the meeting was secret there was no reason to be worried. Remember, he had already given a speech at the MPR conference earlier where he had advocated for diplomatic relations with Israel.
If it was a confidential visit, why did Peres choose to stay at Grand Hyatt Hotel?
First of all he wasn’t supposed to be so visible and you can read what happened in the book. Other than coming and going which was supposed to be through the car park and elevators there was only one lunch in one of the rooms of the Grand Cafe. It was a closed lunch invited guests only.
Can you mention who did attend a closed lunch with Peres?
No, there were representatives from the civil service, police, TNI and academia/NGOS.
How many persons?
Do you still remember what date Peres arrived in Jakarta and where did his plane land?
Other than August 2000 I don’t remember, the plane landed at Soekarno Hatta.
If it was a secret visit, why he did not use a private jet?
Not that secret. The people on Business Class saw him...The secrecy was for security not so much political sensitivities.
How did you arrange that visit therefore it was not smelled by the press?
That was my job. I made the preparations and the hotel didn’t know who was coming. Even our tour guide didn’t know who Peres was. He isn’t well known in RI (Indonesia).
Is it confirmed after that, Barak also visited Indonesia?
Not while I was in the area. He met Gus Dur at the 2000 Millennium summit at the UN in New York, a meeting I had asked for at the August meeting at Halim.
Beside meeting with Gus Dur, was there another agenda conducted by Peres during his visit?
The lunch event and some tourism (Taman mini).
Why did he choose to go to Taman Mini?
I think your side proposed it.
What was his comment about Taman Mini and Jakarta?
Did Peres buy some souvenirs before leaving Jakarta?
I think he enjoyed being outside, the scenery. Yes he bought batik ties.
Did he ask you about Jewish communities in Indonesia?
I think we talked about it when I briefed him after his arrival.
What did you explain to him?
That there were very few Jews in Indonesia and the origins from the Dutch etc.
Was there any exchane of gift between Gus Dur and Peres after thier breakfast meeting?
I think, if I’m not mistaken, that they agreed not to exchange gifts since they were friends anyway. In any case I don’t recall an exchange of gifts.
Why did the meeting between Gus Dur and Peres was not held in the presidential palace?
Probably because Gus Dur was on his way to the Jamboree of the scout movement and was leaving that morning by airplane from Halim after the meeting.
After his visit to Jakarta, did Peres travel back directly to Israel?
I think so, via Singapore I believe. No direct flight anyway.
During your service as the head of Mossad station in South East Asia, what was the most important information you got about Indonesia?
Probably my accurate prediction that there would be no military takeover by TNI but a civilian transfer of power when Gus Dur was removed from office.
And what was your most important recommendation for Israel about Indonesia?
When we had a delegation from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs come visit, ask them not to propose anything in writing.
More Arab and muslim countries will agree to normalise their relations with Israel. Do you think in the next five years, Indonesia will follow the same path?
If Saudi Arabia will join UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, it will be difficult for Indonesia to justify staying idle although it’s possible. I think that in the end only some movement on the Palestinian issue will make it really possible for Indonesia to follow suit.
What is your favourite Indonesian food?
Bakmi Goreng but there are others.
And what was your favourite place to hang out while you were serving as a Mossad agent in Indonesia?
You mean when I visited Jakarta...Plaza Indonesia.