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Why Benjamin Netanyahu Can't Fly Over Indonesia

El Al is the flag carrier of Israel. Photo: Flickr / Andrew Thomas (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Normally, it takes just eight hours to fly from Singapore to Australia, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent eleven hours making this trip this week, in order to avoid Indonesian airspace.

Netanyahu was the first Israeli head of state to visit Australia.

According to the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the flight detour was normal, given that Indonesia refuses to permit any Israeli carriers to enter its airspace.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-dominated nation, doesn't have a formal diplomatic relationship with Israel.

Last year, the Indonesian government said it would normalize ties with Israel once Palestine gains Israel's recognition as an independent state. The government issued this statement after Netanyahu called in an effort to establish formal diplomatic ties between the two states.

Some in Indonesia, especially supporters of Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), welcomed the government's refusal to let Netanyahu into Indonesian airspace, and the move has helped ingratiate Jokowi to some hardline Muslim clerics, who in the past have accused the president of being too reticent to defend Islam.

Writing on Facebook, Andreas Bambang is an example of one Indonesian who approved of Jokowi's decision:

Wahai Haters, selain ketegasan soal Freeport, Inilah alasan lain mengapa saya bangga pada Presiden Joko Widodo. Tegas! Pesawat Netanyahu Berbendera Israel Dilarang Melintasi Wilayah Udara Indonesia. Masih berani kalian bilang Jokowi antek asing, PKI, Komunis, Zionis? Saya kira tuduhan bodoh itu harusnya ditujukan ke para petinggi MUI, yang diam-diam bulan lalu menemui Presiden Israel Reuven Rivlin di kediamannya di Israel. Jokowi yang berjuang serius demi Kemerdekaan Palestina malah kalian tuduh yang macam-macam!

To the haters, besides his firm stance on Freeport, this is another reason why I was proud of President Joko Widodo. He's tough! Netanyahu's Israeli carrier was denied from passing on Indonesian airspace. Still dare accusing him as pro-foreign [powers], pro-Indonesian Communist Party, being a communist, or zionist? Jokowi is  serious in his fight for Palestine's independence, and all you do was accuse him of many things.

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