Israel’s Strong Support Behind Indonesia’s Potential President

SEA Daily — During Indonesia’s second vice presidential debate last night, which focused on environmental themes, the Ministry of Defence’s food estate program in the middle of Borneo’s rainforest came under scrutiny. Although not physically present, Prabowo Subianto, a presidential candidate and the current Minister of Defence, was in the spotlight due to the program’s environmental harm and failure. Subsequently, as more details emerged, the program’s questionable connections to Israel also came to light.

Agriculture Diplomacy

As reported by The Jerusalem Post, agricultural cooperation has been instrumental in warming ties between the Zionists government and Indonesia, led by Prabowo and related to his food estate program in Central Kalimantan. Tackling the food security issue is unique for Prabowo, as he became the first Minister of Defence to receive such an assignment from President Joko Widodo in late 2019, rather than the Minister of Agriculture.

Aerial view of Central Kalimantan’s food estate site (Source: The Gecko Project)

Shmuel Friedman, an agriculture consultant that was also senior adviser to Israel’s former agriculture minister Yair Shamir, said that he partnered with Prabowo, in projects involving Israeli agricultural expertise, and they are working on establishing an agriculture R&D center in Indonesia. Sources believed this center is built to support the food security mission. He emphasizes the importance of food security for nations and aim to deliver results that satisfy farmers, regardless of the expertise’s origin.

Friedman collaborates with Joey Allaham, a prominent New York-based businessman known for establishing the upscale kosher restaurant Prime Grill. Allaham conducts business in Indonesia and the Middle East, working to connect Israelis with new markets. He played a key role in facilitating cooperation between Friedman and Prabowo. In October 2020, Allaham and Indonesian Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan jointly donated 15,000 units of Taffix, an Israeli-made anti-COVID-19 nasal spray, to Indonesian health workers and military personnel.

Indonesia’s section on AICAT’s website (Source: Screenshot)

Luhut, a strong backer of Prabowo’s 2024 presidential campaign, also has footprints of agricultural cooperation with Israel. In 2019, his university in North Sumatera, Institut Teknologi DEL, sent 18 students to Israel for a 10-month agricultural training program under a scholarship from the Arava International Center of Agriculture Training (AICAT), an educational institution located in the Arava Desert. In Indonesia’s section on AICAT’s website, that now is no longer accessible, it is mentioned that the cooperation with Indonesia was started in 2014 with the encouragement of Israeli Embassy in Singapore. For reference, Luhut was Indonesia’s former ambassador to Singapore.

AICAT-IT DEL’s students posed when they first arrived in Israel (Source: IT DEL)

High-level Lobby

Despite lacking formal diplomatic relations, recent meetings and statements indicate a growing closeness between the two nations. Notably, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, holds significant importance for Israel in its efforts to gain international support. As The Jerusalem Post reported, United States is playing a significant deal in brokering the relationship.

Prabowo and Israel’s high level officials in Bahrain (Source: CNN Indonesia)

Prabowo had an encounter with Israel’s National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata during a conference in Manama, November 2021, where he was also seen engaging in conversation with Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Bahrain, Itay Tagner. Following the publication of a photo capturing the moment, Prabowo addressed the matter in a statement, emphasizing that there’s no prohibition against interacting with Israeli officials if it serves the national interest.

Among Indonesia’s top-tier bureaucrats, Prabowo’s stance appears to be quite lenient towards Israel. Despite his gesture of sending humanitarian ship to Gaza, he implied during one of the presidential debates that Israel’s occupation in Palestine occurs ‘because the people of Gaza are weak‘.()

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