Benjamin Netanyahu Takes Two-Hour Detour to Avoid Indonesian Airspace

The plane carrying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Sydney airport on Wednesday morning. Photograph by Mike Bowers for the Guardian.


Sydney, 25 Jumadil Awwal 1438/22 February 2017 (MINA) – The Israeli prime minister was forced to take a two and a half-hour detour en route to Australia, apparently to avoid Indonesian airspace.

Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Sydney at about 6.30am AEDT on Wednesday for a four-day visit, the first time an Israeli prime minister has visited Australia.

The average direct flight from Singapore to Sydney takes about eight and a half hours; according to the flight tracking site FlightAware, Netanyahu’s total flight time was just over 11 hours as his plight path dodged Indonesia’s airspace.

A member of Netanyahu’s delegation confirmed the route to the Guardian.

The flight was operated by El Al, the flag carrier of Israel that is disallowed from venturing into the airspace of many Muslim nations, including Pakistan.

Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslim people in the world – 87.2% of the total population of 260 million – and it is staunchly supportive of the Palestinian cause.

It has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, but does sanction some travel and trade. Its visa-free policy was extended to Israel and 83 other countries in December 2015 in a bid to increase tourism.

In March last year Netanyahu called for diplomatic relations to be formally established with Indonesia because of the “many opportunities for bilateral cooperation”, especially in technology.

According to the Times of Israel report, he said the reasons for the two countries not to have a relationship were “no longer relevant” and that they were allied against terrorism.

He told the delegation of Indonesian journalists, visiting as guests of the Israeli foreign ministry: “I have quite a few Facebook friends who are Indonesian.”

But the Indonesian government said in response that ties with Israel would only be normalised if Palestine gained independence.

Cabinet secretary Pramono Anung said: “The most important thing is the spirit to realise Palestinian independence”. (T/RS05/RS01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)