Jannus TH Siahaan

Message from Friend of Israel which Indonesia needs to reconsider

Actually, regarding the normalization of Indonesia’s diplomatic relations with Israel, Gus Dur’s argument is difficult to refute. He was president of the Republic of Indonesia from 1999 to 2001. He said, tt is impossible for Indonesia to be actively involved in Middle East peace, especially Israel and Palestine, if Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. How is it possible for Indonesia to stand as a mediator, if from the very beginning Indonesia has taken sides and closed itself to either party. And how can peace be initiated, if communication is not intensified. And how could intensive communication be built if diplomatic relations were not opened. The logic sequence is quite easy to understand.

That was Gus Dur’s logical argument when he wanted to open Indonesia’s diplomatic relations with Israel, apart from the consideration of Goerge Soros, one of the scapegoats for the 1997 Asian crisis, who is a Jew. If Indonesia wants to be actively involved in the peace process, and even become one of the initiators, then Indonesia must have diplomatic relations with both of them, so that Indonesia can get fair insights on both parties, which can be used as a basis for building mutual understanding between the two.

This means that regardless of whether Indonesia agrees or disagrees with one of the parties, it does not mean that Indonesia has to close its diplomatic relations with one of them. Precisely in this way, Indonesia lost its role to be more actively involved in the peace process of the two countries. And after Indonesia rejected Gus Dur’s logic, Morocco is now using it. Morocco does take and give action with Israel and America, where the two countries recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed areas of Western Sahara, and Morocco is willing to open diplomatic relations with Israel.

But interestingly, Morocco has never withdrawn its commitment to Palestine. As repeatedly stated, Morocco remains committed to Palestinian sovereignty. For Morocco, normalizing diplomatic relations with Israel does not mean negating the Palestinian struggle, but rather is the most sensible step to voice the aspirations for Palestinian independence to Israel and America. In fact, it is this Moroccan move that was meant by Gus Dur 20 years ago, which Indonesia still does not understand to this day.

The simple question is, what has Indonesia done to help Palestine by closing diplomatic relations possibility with Israel? The answer, apart from volunteer donations, is only limited to closing itself off from diplomatic relations with Israel, which also means that Indonesia loses its role in bridging the two disputing parties because Indonesia has cut ties with one of them.

Meanwhile, Gus Dur’s intentions were very clear. Indonesia is a country with the largest Muslim population in the world. It makes perfect sense for Indonesia to be actively involved in peace initiatives in the Middle East, as a form of solidarity. But that could never be done if Indonesia chose to close itself off to one of parties involved. That’s why Indonesia doesn’t have a role there, to this day.

In fact, the same logic is used by the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan, which have previously normalized diplomatic relations with Israel. It’s just that the Iranian factor which greatly influences Hamas, makes the UAE and Bahrain, including the Saudis, reluctant to talk openly about Palestine, in addition to the historical claim of Palestine which is also not very strong. If it is still possible and there is still an option to make Palestine more sovereign, as long as Palestine is also willing to follow the preconditions of Arab countries that choose to be friends with Israel, then I am quite sure, Saudi and UAE will also show their commitment to Palestine.

The problem is that Hamas has chosen a non-negotiable path of hate. Hamas chooses the path of war, not the path of diplomacy. Israel is not unwilling to accept the diplomatic logic of Land for Peace as mandated by the Arab Initiative 2002. In 2005, Israel vacated the Gaza strip. About 100 thousand Israeli citizens were forced out. But what happened? The Gaza Strip is used by Hamas as the launching points for missiles aimed at Israel. With this experience, Israel is now imagining what if it happened in the Westbank? Westbank will automatically turn into a Hamas missile launcher, which can reach all of Israel.

So I think Gus Dur’s basic logic and Moroccan precedent deserve to be considered by Indonesia. Apart from the various economic, defense, or technological advantages that Indonesia can get from Israel and America, normalizing relations with Israel provides more space for Indonesia to take on an intermediary role for peace in the Middle East, especially between Israel and Palestine.

It is impossible to participate in initiating peace, Indonesia is not willing to make friends. If the Sunni Saudi, UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco are willing to carry out diplomatic normalization with Israel, even though all of them have been actively involved in the Arab Initiative 18 years ago, then will Indonesia still consider Gus Dur’s idea, one which was called by Hareetz media as friend of Israel, and the precedent from Morocco to be an irrational impossibility?

About the Author
Doctor of Sociology from Padjadjaran University, Indonesia. Defense and Environment Observer.
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