US offers Indonesia billions in incentives to recognize Israel

American officials offering incentives to entice world’s largest Muslim country to join Abraham Accords.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A senior U.S. government official said the Trump administration is offering economic incentives to encourage Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, to join other Muslim countries in normalizing ties with Israel, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday.

The head of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Adam Boehler, said the southeast Asian nation could receive billions of dollars in financial investment in return for establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.

“We’re talking to them about it,” Boehler told Bloomberg during a visit to Jerusalem by an American diplomatic delegation. “If they’re ready, they’re ready and if they are then we’ll be happy to even support more financially than what we do.”

The DFC is the government agency established in 2018 by President Donald Trump with a lending capacity of $60 billion to provide loans, guarantees and insurance for foreign development projects involving American businesses.

Boehler said the DFC was able to boost funding for projects in Indonesia by “one or two more billion dollars.”

Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation, Ofir Akunis, told Ynet on Wednesday that officials are working on a fifth Muslim country to recognize Israel while Trump is still in office before Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20th, but did not reveal which country that is.

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Last week, Israel Hayom reported that a senior government official from a large Muslim-majority Asian country recently visited Israel, and Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen suggested that the country may be Indonesia.

Indonesia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, but have quietly maintained back channel ties over the years. In 2018, Yahya Staquf, the leader of Indonesia’s 60 million member Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organization, visited Israel saying he sees interfaith cooperation as a basis for solving conflicts.

Under mediation by the Trump administration, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco all announced they are normalizing relations with Israel.

While the U.S. wants Oman and Saudi Arabia to join, Boehler said those two countries were not eligible for American government funding for projects because DFC investment is legislated to target only lower income states, but added that the DFC may be involved in the privatization of the Israel’s largest port in the northern city of Haifa, where American firms and a company from the UAE have expressed interest.

Boehler said the U.S. is looking to help Israel expand exports of its offshore natural gas to Central Asian countries or Europe in order to counter Russian and Chinese influence, and with the DFC getting bipartisan support he expected Biden to continue the projects already underway.

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“I think they will take what we did and take it further, and I hope they do and I’ll be there to support them,” Boehler said.