Jakarta : No Israeli ties until issue of Palestine is resolved

INDONESIA will not forge diplomatic ties with Israel until Tel Aviv resolves the Palestinian question and gives up its claims on occupied Arab territories.

Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said that there was no change in the government’s position on supporting the Palestinian struggle to regain its homeland occupied by Israel since 1967.

“Indonesia will consider opening diplomatic ties with Israel only if the Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts have been solved,” the Antara news agency quoted Mr Alatas as saying yesterday.

He said that the Israeli government had to give Palestinians a chance to exercise their self-determination. Besides backing Palestine’s claim for independence, he added that Indonesia had at various international forums also urged Israel to return the Arab territories it occupied.

“It still occupies Syrian and Lebanese territories,” he told reporters during an election campaign swing for the ruling Golkar party, in Dili, East Timor.

Diplomats and political analysts told The Straits Times that Mr Alatas’ comments reflected underlying dissatisfaction over Israel’s handling of political negotiations on the Palestine issue.

Mr Nugroho Wisnu Murti, the Director-General for Political Affairs in the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, said: “We want a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian problem. The hardline approach of the Netanyahu government does little to achieve this.

“The peace process is rolling back because Israel is undoing what has been achieved so far.”

Israeli-Palestinian tension has been high since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the green light in March this year to build 6,500 homes for Jewish people on Har Horma in Arab East Jerusalem.

Mr Nugroho said that the Indonesian government felt “vindicated” for not establishing diplomatic links with Israel because of the turn around in Israeli policy towards Palestine.

“We were right not to establish diplomatic links with Israel,” he said, adding that Indonesia would continue to adopt a cautious approach.

Observers said another factor which delayed the possibility of forging formal ties was domestic opposition in Indonesia.

International relations expert Soedjati Djiwandono of the Jakarta-based think-tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: “The timing is not right because public perception of the issue here is still one of religious conflict between Muslims and Jews.” Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country. Nearly 80 per cent of 200 million Indonesians are Muslims.

Mr Nugroho said that Indonesia would build ties with Israel only after it met the stipulated condition of returning Palestinians their homeland.

“We don’t have a time-frame for establishing relations with Israel. The ball is really in Israel’s court now.”

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