Rabin Makes Surprise Visit to Indonesia, Singapore
JAKARTA (AP) _ Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin extended his hand to holdouts against friendly ties with Israel on Friday in a surprise visit to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.
″It is important to tell (the nonaligned states) of the opportunities of cooperation with Israel,″ Rabin told reporters after meeting for an hour with Indonesian President Suharto.
Rabin was on his way back from a visit to China. ″It is necessary to get international support for the peace process and bilateral support from these countries,″ he said.
Indonesian Minister at the State Secretariat Murdiono said the meeting did not indicate that Indonesia was considering establishing diplomatic relations with Israel in the near future.
However, the openness of the meeting was unprecedented. Rabin met Suharto for an hour at the president’s Jakarta home.
Rabin said the size of Indonesia’s Muslim population was also important in legitimizing the Sept. 13 Israel-PLO agreement, which is still opposed by some Arab groups.
Israel, long isolated because of its conflict with its Arab neighbors, has seized upon recent peace moves, especially the historic PLO-Israel agreement, to expand its ties and influence. Indonesia heads the Organization of Nonaligned States.
″The mutual agreement with the PLO and the signing of the agreement and the start of its implementation ... have opened new horizons before the state of Israel,″ Rabin said.
Indonesia is one of the few nations in the region not to have established relations with the Jewish state since U.S.-backed Middle East peace talks began in 1991.
Beyond garnering international support for the peace process, establishing new diplomatic ties opens up commercial possibilities for Israel.
Israeli officials reportedly discussed arms sales while Rabin was in China, and Rabin emphasized that Indonesia, the world’s 14th largest oil producer, had a daily output of 1.5 billion barrels a day.
Israel has caught some flak from its closest ally, the United States, for what has sometimes seemed like an over-eagerness to establish new ties. U.S. pressure forced Israel to cut short talks with North Korea some months ago, and media reports last month said the same was true of planned ties with Cuba.
Rabin’s entourage bluffed journalists traveling with them by telling them they were to make an unscheduled stop in Uzbekistan, a largely Muslim republic that has ties with Israel. The ruse was not revealed until the last minute.
Rabin left Jakarta for Singapore, where he was to spend the Jewish Sabbath with the Jewish community. Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Rabin would also meet with Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew.
He is scheduled to fly to Kenya, another unscheduled stop, on Saturday night.