The Jakarta Post
The normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and some Gulf Arab countries will not change Indonesia’s support for the Palestinians in the longstanding Middle East conflict, a government spokesman has said.
As a staunch supporter of the Palestinian struggle for independence, predominantly Muslim Indonesia has paid close attention to the latest developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Most recently, United States President Donald Trump hosted on Tuesday officials from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who signed deals to consolidate furtive ties with Israel despite protests from the Palestinians.
The two countries became the third and fourth Arab states to normalize ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
Trump’s showmanship in celebrating the so-called “Abraham Accords” has exposed fault lines in the Arab world’s solidarity with the Palestinian people, experts have said, but the move has not persuaded Indonesia to abandon its position on the matter.
“For Indonesia, the settlement of the Palestinian issue needs to respect the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and internationally agreed parameters, including a two-state solution,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah told reporters on Thursday.
“We understand the intention of the UAE and Bahrain to provide space for the relevant parties to negotiate and change the approach to solving the Palestinian issue through this agreement. However, the effectiveness of the agreement depends to a large extent on Israel's commitment to respect it,” Faizasyah said.
He said Indonesia believed that all those involved had to ensure that all initiatives for peace do not derail the decisions made through the Arab Peace Initiative and Organization of Islamic Cooperation resolutions.
“Therefore, it is time to consider that these initiatives and agreements are geared toward restarting a credible multilateral process. This will allow equal footing for all parties and be based on agreed international parameters,” the official added.
Decades of impasse have weighed down international efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, from the defunct Middle East Quartet to various OIC commitments and the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Arab Peace Initiative was endorsed by the Arab League at the 22-member group's 2002 summit. The proposal calls for the establishment of ties between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for the former's withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories as well as parts of Syria and Lebanon, along with the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Yon Machmudi, a scholar from the University of Indonesia’s Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, said it was becoming increasingly difficult for Indonesia to support the Palestinian cause, on account of the country’s good relations with the UAE, Bahrain and other Gulf countries.
“Of course, there’s a commitment not to interfere in the affairs of other countries that have normalized [ties with Israel], but Indonesia will still gently remind them not to forget the plight of the Palestinians,” he said.
Both UAE and Bahraini officials have sought to reassure the Palestinians that their countries were not abandoning them or their quest for statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, despite the Palestinian leadership having decried the deals as a betrayal of their cause.
Bahrain’s interior minister said on Monday that its latest policy was aimed at protecting Bahrain’s interests and strengthening its strategic partnership with the US amid an ongoing threat from Iran.
“It is not an abandonment of the Palestinian cause, it is to strengthen Bahrainis’ security and their economic stability,” minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa said in a statement, as quoted by Reuters.
Yon noted that, diplomatically, when Arab countries began to recognize the state of Israel, that would have an effect on efforts to support the independence of Palestine.
“If we look at the numbers, Israel is gaining acknowledgement of the existence of its statehood, while the numbers in support of Palestine’s independence do not change. We don’t see countries that do not recognize Palestine suddenly change their position,” he said.
Before the signing ceremony, Trump told Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu that there were “at least five or six countries coming along very quickly” to forge their own accords with Israel, Reuters reported.
Trump went on to say a third Gulf Arab state, Saudi Arabia, would strike an agreement with Israel “at the right time”, but the Saudi cabinet immediately issued a statement on the need for a “just and comprehensive solution” to the Palestinian issue.