Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday that Israel's participation in the U-20 World Cup hosted by his country does not represent any change in its foreign policy, stressing that there is no confusion between sports and politics, amid domestic protests.
Joko Widodo confirmed that he had sent Eric Tohir, a cabinet minister and former president of Inter Milan, to Zurich to meet with FIFA officials, after the draw for the tournament was postponed following protests against Israel's participation.
The president stressed Indonesia's support for Palestine and the two-state solution, and said Israel secured a place in the tournament last July, long after his country was awarded the rights to host the tournament.
In a live-broadcast speech, he said: "So I stress that Israel's participation has nothing to do with the consistency of our foreign policy positions towards Palestine, because our support for Palestine is always strong and firm. Don't mix sports issues with politics."
Indonesia and Israel have no formal diplomatic relations. Jakarta has recently seen protests demanding that Israel be banned from the tournament, which will be held from May 20 to June 11.
Adjournment of lots
On Sunday, the Indonesian federation announced the postponement of the draw scheduled for Friday, due to the refusal of the governor of Bali to host the Israeli team.
Local media reported that Bali Governor Ian Koster called on the Ministry of Youth and Sports to "develop a policy to prevent the participation of the Israeli team in Bali" because of the conflict with the Palestinians.
Reuters was unable to obtain comment from the Bali governor's office.
The governor told the media on Monday that he was following a "government position."
Reuters was unable to obtain comment from the Israel Federation.
A FIFA spokesman said the inspection of the tournament had been completed, but did not comment on the meeting with the Indonesian federation's president or when the draw would take place.
The president on Tuesday made no mention of the proposal that Eric Toher would submit to FIFA.
Eric wrote on Instagram that the case was "not easy."
Indonesia is at risk of having the tournament withdrawn, which could push Indonesian football into isolation again after FIFA suspended it for a year until May 2016 due to government interference in the management of the game.
Indonesia has been trying to improve its image after a stampede in East Java last year left 135 spectators dead, many of them trampled in an attempt to get out of the stadium, after police fired tear gas at fans.
Acting Sports Minister Muhajir Effendi told parliament on Tuesday that a solution was needed, stressing the importance of hosting the tournament for Indonesian football.
"There is still the possibility of doing that. FIFA appreciates and understands what is happening in Indonesia. We are trying some options, the best of which we hope will happen if the tournament will be held in Indonesia."