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.”

  • Roland

    Do I smell some religious issues here which once again meddled its way into the minds of those now shouting loud about “ethics”?

    They are getting their underwear now in a knit but when it’s about grand scale stealing or lying or less than mediocre performance due to pure laziness one hardly can squeeze a word out from the “ethical council” and then usually just some vague excuses and stalling.

    Now if it’s about the Palestinian “brothers” (which again of course connects with their religious affiliation) then I think it should also be recognized that much of what happens these days to the Palestinians and where they are standing is home-grown and has not much to do with the Israelis and Israel (while I do understand that they are not innocent either). But still, Israel is good enough for Indonesia when it’s about trade or weaponry but seemingly not good enough for diplomatic ties (due to this artificially exaggerated Palestine issue of course). I hope also that Marty Natalegawa’s has to carry his imaginary “badge of honour” (what a crap BTW) all his life around.

    • Dirk

      Though a minority, there are plenty of Palestinian Shia. If it were up to Indonesia, what would happen to them? Slaughter or forced conversion?

  • Serigala-Berbulu-Domba

    Doctrinaire criticism of Tantowi’s visit to Israel, while expected, is extremely immature.

    • TalkingEid

      Indeed. Another fine example of Indonesian kindergarden politics.

  • 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

    • H. Tobing

      Between Duncan and DD there are 19 thumbs up but no one here thinks that there is a correlation to this stunt and SBY’s trip to NYC and being awarded the globe by the Rabbi from the Jewish foundation? It just seems to have been setup to smoothly and the current government’s silent partner Mr. Bakrie sure has been quiet during all of this.

  • 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.

    • GypsyMacaque

      But they do not belong to a political party. Imagine the member of MUI, FTI, Garis, Kisdi, FUI, DDII,MPU, organized tour to visit to Israel, Imagine….

  • 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.

    • TalkingEid

      “Its maneuver to block foreign minister Mr Marty Natalegawa visiting Israel could not be accepted” – numpty. It was simple grandstanding. Indonesia will not recognise Israel so of course they wouldn’t admit him, as he knew all along. I wonder if he used his own money to for his self-publicizing jaunt?

    • 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.

    • jjek

      A country without a region? This maneuver to block Mr, MN ? could you please specify. I do believe this all is ’cause of lingual misunderstandings

    • Botak

      Do you know who is holding the worlds economy in their hands? The Jews. The citizens of Israel were able to build up something what no Muslim was able to do. They created a country and nation, in an area which you could call sand and stone only, while they were surrounded by enemies, who on a regular base attacked them.

      If Indonesia wants to become “maju” it should follow and tie up with the successful countries, and not the failed ones like Egypt and others.

    • H. Tobing

      Trade? This was never about any kind of trade agreement, never, it was a show and there are a lot better on HBO any night of the week that can pull it off a lot better than these 2 bit actors..

  • 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.

  • jegwe

    The best help that Indonesia and all Muslim countries can give to the Palestinians is to recognise Israel. To say that Indonesia will not recognise Israel until Israel allows an
    independent Palestine is turning the problem on it head. Israel agreed
    to recognise an independent Palestinian state twenty years ago. As long as the Palestinians can rely on tame Muslim countries going against their own national interests by repeating every anti-Israel and anti-Jewish mantra that the Palestinians give them, they will never make peace.

    Indonesia gains nothing by not recognising Israel. It would gain a lot by doing openly what it is currently doing in secret. Arabs in Israel have full citizenship. Muslims have complete religious freedom. There is no reason why Indonesia should not recognise Israel and fully normalise its relations with it.

  • 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;