Golkar Lawmaker Under Fire for ‘Secret’ Israel Visit

Golkar Party lawmaker Tantowi Yahya recently visiting Israel to take part in Palestine peace talks. (SP Photo/Alex Suban)

Golkar Party lawmaker Tantowi Yahya recently visited Israel to take part in Palestine peace talks. (SP Photo/Alex Suban)

A Golkar Party lawmaker’s “secret” trip to witness peace talks between Palestine and Israel — a country with no diplomatic ties to Indonesia — has inspired anger in the House of Representatives.

Tantowi Yahya visited the country earlier this month with a group of journalists on an invitation from an Australia-based pro-Israel organization. During his visit, Tantowi met with members of Israel’s parliament (Knesset), as well as academics and government officials. One such meeting, with Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, was reported on the website Israel Hayom, raising alarms in Indonesia.

Ali Machsan Musa, a member of the House’s Ethics Committee, chastised Tantowi for the visit.

“He should not have done that,” Ali said. “Indonesia has no diplomatic ties with Israel.”

House Speaker Marzuki Ali said he wasn’t notified of the trip beforehand. If Tantowi went to Israel on official business, then he clearly violated Indonesia’s diplomatic rules, Marzuki said.

“I don’t want to say whether or not he is guilty,” he said. “Let the Ethics Committee decide.”

A report has not been filed with the Ethics Committee, Ali said.

National Mandate Party (PAN) lawmaker Muhammad Najib piled on the attack, stating that Tantowi’s visit did not represent the interests of the House Commission I, which oversees defense and international relations.

“There have never been any discussions in Commission I to send a member to Israel,” Najib said. “Indonesia does not admit Israel’s existence diplomatically.”

Official relations between the two countries remain rocky. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa was denied entry to Israel to attend a meeting of Non-Aligned Movement ministers in the West Bank last August. The rejection, which Marty called a “badge of honor,” only re-enforced the country’s official stance on Israel, he said.

Indonesia has refused to establish diplomatic ties with Israel until the country allows an independent Palestine. But this stance hasn’t stopped Indonesian officials from visiting Israel, or put a damper on trade ties.

The two nations set up a chamber of commerce to facilitate trade in 2009, settling on the unassuming name the “Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce.” Indonesia booked $750 million in trade in 2008, and $450 million in 2009, despite failing to officially recognize the country, according to reports in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

A top representative of Indonesia’s highest security council visited Tel Aviv in November of 2012 for a government-sponsored conference on homeland security, Haaretz reported. The unnamed Indonesian official — a guest of the Israeli government — wandered the conference without a badge, the newspaper reported.

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid once expressed an interest in establishing cozier ties between the countries, but current sentiment in Indonesia is far less civil. Mahfudz Shiddiq, the head of the House Commission I, once called on the world to isolate the “Israeli imperialist regime.”

Tantowi, meanwhile, was unapologetic of his visit.

When asked about the controversy, Tantowi, a part-time country music singer, responded “I think my visit was very beneficial.”

  • Duncan

    so a man goes out of his way to understand a key ‘muslim’ issue, one that is repeatedly used to justify anti Western, Anti Christian and anti Jew anger and violence and he is roundly attacked and condemned by muslims in his parliament
    I feel the man should be applauded

  • Catweazle

    Hardly a clandestine visit when he was accompanied by a group of journalists!

  • Jeng Kel

    Thousands of Indonesians visit Israel every year in organized tours. Golkar reactions to Yahya’s trip are clearly calculated with an eye towards PR and the upcoming election.

  • Putra

    Except Israel, There are many countries in the world which more valuable to be Indonesian trading partner. Israel is a country without region. What could be expected from it? Its maneuver to block foreign minister Mr Marty Natalegawa visiting Israel could not be accepted. So, It is not important to make a relationship with Israel.

  • Putra

    Except Israel, There are many countries in the world which more valuable to be Indonesian trading partner. Israel is a country without region. What could be expected from it? Its maneuver to block foreign minister Mr Marty Natalegawa visiting Israel could not be accepted. So, It is not important to make a relationship with Israel.

    • Deddy K.

      Is that the only reason? Marty Natalegawa was going to Israel to denounce Israel for occupying Palestinian area. (not a visit, but more of an attack no?)
      It seems that say Palestine was Buddhists or another religious state (and not the ultra radical Islamic state, that is run by Hamas terrorist whom like to utilize schools and hospitals as weapon depots) would Indonesians be so Anti Israel (unless it’s for trade than screw it, who cares).

      I think if Indonesia is extremely serious about the whole Palestine Vs Israel thing, they would actually create ties with Israel allowing them to understand the issue from the Israel point of view to help bridge the gap and create a win-win solution.

      Or Indonesia and I notice through the lack of knowledge provided to our people Continue their Anti-semite point of view that everything bad going on in the planet is Jews fault, they control the US and by extension the world, and all the violence perpertrated by Muslims is Jewish propaganda.

  • Putra

    Except Israel, There are many countries in the world which more valuable to be Indonesian trading partner. Israel is a country without region. What could be expected from it? Its maneuver to block foreign minister Mr Marty Natalegawa visiting Israel could not be accepted. So, It is not important to make a relationship with Israel.

  • H. Tobing

    I wonder if he serenaded the Israeli’s with a good ole boy country tearjerker song?

  • H. Tobing

    He knows 2 kinds of Music, Country and Western.

  • MadWorld

    As I understand the border & the creation of Israel ( Zionism) were supposedly written in the Bible with Jerusalem included. The west, Britain ,USA, French started carving the Middle East like a piece of cake, disregarding ethnic or religion. The west befriended the Sunni Arab, which “supported” Hamas, , neglecting Lebanon with the Hezbollah supported by Iran, meddling with Syria trying to support the rebel factionS that includes Al Qaeda and sunni extremism, while Assad which is a Alawite Shiite married to a sunni wife maintain a secular government and so the political chaos go on and on and on. As we all know, Islam is not a peaceful religion as it is make this region a tinder box for political violence. A peaceful solution in this political chaos is almost a mission impossible.
    And a trivial visit of an Indonesian political party member makes headline in Indonesia;