Israel Hopes for Rapprochement With Fifth Muslim Country Before Trump Exit

YERUSHALAYIM -
Minister Ofir Akunis. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel is working towards formalizing relations with a fifth Muslim country during President Donald Trump’s term, which ends next month, Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis told Ynet on Wednesday.

The White House has brokered rapprochements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco this year, with Morocco hosting an Israeli-U.S. delegation on Tuesday to flesh out the upgrade in relations.

Asked if a fifth country could sign up before Trump steps down on January 20, Akunis said, “We are working in that direction.”

“There will be an American announcement about another country that is going public with the normalization of relations with Israel and, in essence, with the infrastructure for an accord – a peace accord,” he said.

He declined to name the country but said there were two main candidates. One is in the Gulf, he said, giving Oman as a possibility while adding that Saudi Arabia is not.

The other candidate, further to the east, is a “Muslim country that is not small” but is not Pakistan, Akunis said.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, said last week it would not recognize Israel as long as Palestinian statehood demands remain unmet.

Palestinians fear the normalization of ties with Israel by Arab states will weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position calling for Israeli withdrawal from Yehudah and Shomron and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

According to a report by Bloomberg, it seems as if the country referred to by Akunis is indeed Indonesia.

Bloomberg quoted DFC Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler who said in an interview that Indonesia could unlock billions of dollars in additional U.S. financing if it joins Trump’s push for Muslim countries to establish relations with Israel.

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, a government agency that invests overseas, could more than double its current $1 billion portfolio if Indonesia develops ties with Israel, he said in an interview Monday at the King David Hotel in Yerushalayim.

“We’re talking to them about it,” Boehler added. “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.” He said that he wouldn’t be surprised if his organization’s funding to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, was boosted by “one or two more billion dollars.”

While the U.S. hopes Oman and Saudi Arabia will eventually also join, Boehler said DFC funding to those two countries would be restricted because the organization isn’t allowed to invest directly in higher-income states.