Some Israeli cyber and energy companies have entered the Indonesian market

The number of Israeli companies have entered the Indonesian market are growing. The most prospective sectors are agriculture, water, energy, and cyber.

03 Agustus 2021 09:45

Since the era of President Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesia and Israel have started cooperation in the private sector but this has been going on in secret.

Until last year, there were efforts to improve Indonesia-Israel relations towards open economic cooperation.

Deputy Chairman of the Israeli-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce Emanuel Shahaf admitted that economic relations between the two countries were indeed running very slowly.

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Though, he stressed the most promising sectors for the two countries to cooperate are agriculture, energy, water, and cyber.

"Some Israeli companies have entered the Indonesian market," said Emanuel Shahaf in an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co via WhatsApp yesterday. "They are from agriculture, water, energy, and cyber sectors."


There is a growing nomalisation between Israel with Arab and muslim countries. Do you think this such atmosphere will also influence Indonesian political and economic elites?

It will certainly have an influence but the biggest impact will probably be through projects that Arab states (UAE?) will participate in in Indonesia e.g. investing in agriculture/agribusiness using Israeli technology and know how and UAE money.

Do you think UAE will encourage Indonesia to start more open economic relations with Israel?

I think that it would be natural that doing projects together (Israel, UAE, Indonesia) would encourage Indonesia in that way.

Do you see that initiative already taken because Indonesia currenty has a very close relationship with UAE?

I have no such knowledge but it sounds perfectly logical to me.

In his final weeks term, the Trump administration acknowledged that if they have one or two more months, Indonesia will sign an agreement with Israel for economic cooperations. Do you think Biden administration will take the same path?

I doubt it. I think Trump was about to pay a bribe, literally, something the Biden Administration is unlikely to do. Also Biden is not yet as close to Israel’s new PM as Trump was to Netanyahu.

Maybe, after Bennett’s visit to Washington which is coming up we’ll see. By the way, Bennett has been to Indonesia as Israeli Minister to a UN conference in Bali several years ago.

In what position while Bennett were coming to Indonesia?

He was Minister of Economy in 2013.

So, he is the second Israeli minister who visited Indonesia after Shimon Peres in 2000?

Yes but as opposed to Peres, no Indonesian government officials met with Bennett.

What is the most prospective sectors for Indonesia and Israel to restart their economic cooperation?

Agriculture, medicine, energy, and education (on line).

As the Vice Chairman of Israel-Indonesia Commerce Board, what did you do to make economic cooperation become possible?

What I did was to provide information about Indonesian conditions to Israeli companies, helped them to make contacts in Indonesia and promoted relations with Israel with Indonesian government officials and other contacts in Indonesia.

How is the development so far?

There is a huge gap between the potential and what has been achieved. Very little if any improvement over the years.

Can you mention what has been achieved?

Some Israeli companies have entered the Indonesian market.

How many?

No idea but the number is growing.

Can you mention some names?

No, absolutely not. That’s one of the problems in Indonesia.

In what sectors they are?

Agriculture, energy, water, cyber.

Which one bigger? public or private companies?

In Cyber, bigger public companies, the rest mostly private.

Those Israeli companies have entered market in Indonesia mostly cooperated with public or private companies in Indonesia?

I don’t know enough details.

Do you think it is necessary to use a powerful third country like the US or Saudi Arabia to encourage an open economic relations between Indonesia and Israel?

As long as the Indonesian government is reluctant, a strong third country can help but it doesn’t mean the help will work.

But do you believe pressures from countries like Saudi and UAE will effectively change the position of Indonesia?

Highly unlikely unless there are at the same time developments in the peace process with the Palestinians.

But UAE and Saudi has shown their warm relations with Israel?

UAE yes, Saudi Arabia less so. Still this is warm relations between governments , not the people for the time being.

How about the number of values of those trades?

I don’t have the numbers.

More than US$ 1 billion a year in your estimation?

Definitely not.

Or less than US$ 500 million?

Altogether probably about half, official numbers are even less.

What do you expect in the next five years about Indonesia-Israel relations?

More of the same, no major developments unless Indonesia decides otherwise.

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