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Jakarta Post

New president should prioritize Palestine: Alwi

  • Ina Parlina

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, June 28, 2014   /  03:39 pm

Indonesia, which has long supported the Palestinian struggle for independence, needs to work harder to help Palestinians fulfill their dream during the next presidency, a former special envoy to the Middle East said.

'€œWe need to take more assertive steps, instead of just waiting,'€ said Alwi Shihab, who was also a former foreign minister during the presidency of Abdurrahman '€œGus Dur'€ Wahid, on Friday.

Alwi made his comment while praising the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle'€™s (PDI-P) presidential candidate Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo stance on foreign policy. Jokowi, during the third debate, expressed his commitment to the Palestinian cause.

'€œI gather from Jokowi'€™s perspective that he feels it is important to actively participate in pursuing peace between Palestine and Israel, not just to observe the process,'€ said Alwi, who has been campaigning for Jokowi.

As a former special envoy to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Alwi said that past efforts fell short.

'€œI do not deny that past administrations made it a priority, but they did not make it a top priority,'€ he said.

For Indonesia, the end goal of the Palestinian struggle is the acquisition of full national independence, with Palestinians living peacefully side-by-side with Israelis in a two-state solution.

Palestine declared its independence on Nov. 15, 1988. Israel, however, has occupied most off the areas claimed by Palestine since 1967. In 1993, The Palestinian National Authority (PLO) began to exercise limited administrative authority over areas. The UN has granted the PLO an observer status in the international body.

Alwi argued that Indonesia '€œcan garner supports from Muslim countries outside the Arab world to encourage the United States and Europe to push Israel for peace.'€ Such a maneuver could derive momentum from the new unity government founded between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) and the militant Islamic group, Hamas.

Hamas and Fatah split violently in 2007, resulting in Hamas seizing control of Gaza by force. The two announced a peace deal in April. However, both Israel and the US have rejected the deal, warning it would complicate the peace process.

Jokowi raised the Palestinian issue in the third televised presidential debate, saying that he would support an independent Palestinian state and full UN membership.

In the debate, Jokowi gave an impressive performance discussing international affairs and defense issues, two subjects considered strong suits for his rival, the Gerindra Party'€™s Prabowo Subianto.

Jokowi has, on several occasions, brought up the issue during his presidential campaign, including in locations like Jambi and Pontianak. By standing firmly behind a cause important to many Muslims nationwide, the move is an apparent tactic to recover votes lost to recent smear campaigns that shed doubt on Jokowi'€™s Muslim identity.

Jokowi has also said he would set up an Indonesian embassy in Palestine if he was elected president.

The Antara news agency had previously reported that Palestinian Ambassador Fariz Mehdawi was happy that Jokowi had brought the Palestinian issue up during the debate, although he later said he would support any president elected by the Indonesian people.

'€œI hope Indonesia'€™s policy [supporting Palestinian independence] does not change,'€ Mehdawi said.

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