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14 Mar, 2016

Israel again blocks Indonesian Foreign Minister from opening consulate in Palestine

Israel escalated its global war on Islam last week by blocking Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi from travelling to Ramallah, Palestine, to dedicate an honorary consulate because of her refusal to first meet with Israeli officials in Jerusalem. This is the second time an Indonesian Foreign Minister has been denied access to Ramallah. In 2012, former Indonesian FM Marty Natalegawa was also similarly denied access.

Retno Marsudi

The latest move is a direct challenge to the world’s largest Muslim country whose President Joko Widodo just earlier this month warned the Islamic world that it risked becoming ‘irrelevant’ if it cannot help the Palestinians fulfill their 60-year quest for independence and statehood. It is also a defiant show of “Jewish power” which the Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu bragged about in his speech at the annual UN General Assembly in September 2014.

According to Agence France Presse and various other accounts published in Arab and Israeli media, Israel refused to allow the Indonesian foreign minister to enter the Palestinian Territories on March 13 after she declined to also meet with Israeli officials in Jerusalem.

A report in Ynet News said, “Indonesia had planned to dedicate the consulate to fulfill pledges to improve relations with Palestinian Authority and express support for the Palestinian struggle for independence.”

The consulate is planned to be responsible for strengthening economic, social, and cultural ties and encouraging tourism and business exchanges between Indonesia and Palestine. It will also help Indonesian pilgrims, both Christians and Muslims, travelling in the Palestinian Territories.

Ynet News reported that “Indonesia asked Israel through diplomatic channels to allow its foreign minister to visit Ramallah, but the (Israeli) Prime Minister’s Office instructed authorities to bar her entry.”

Although the Israeli government is seeking to pressure the Indonesian government to ‘normalise’ relations, Indonesia has maintained a steadfast policy that establishing full diplomatic ties with Israel will only be possible after peace has been reached between Israel and Palestine.

A report in the UAE daily Gulf News quoted an unidentified official from the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying that the Palestinian Authority had “exerted all possible efforts to facilitate the entry of the Indonesian delegation to the West Bank. The Palestinians have spared no effort to grant the visiting delegation entry to the West Bank, but the Israelis insisted on their categorical rejection,” the official told Gulf News.

“The Israelis have already been aware of the visit and they had not given any indication to their refusal in advance,” he said. “It was only when the Indonesian delegation reached Amman and was ready to head to crossing that the Israelis announced their refusal to grant them the necessary entry permits.”

Israeli authorities control access to the West Bank, where the Palestinian political capital Ramallah is located. Marsudi was to hold talks in Ramallah with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and her counterpart Riad al-Malki, according to a statement from the Palestinian foreign ministry.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said in a statement that “Israel did not grant the overflight permit for the helicopter” that was to take Marsudi from Jordan to the West Bank.

The diplomatic snub takes on huge significance because it flies directly in the face of everything that was discussed and agreed upon at an extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Conference countries in Jakarta just a week earlier, between March 6-7. If Indonesia and the Islamic world are unable to do anything in response, beyond trotting out another toothless condemnation or protest, it will prove right what the Indonesian President himself complained about in his summit speech.

Opening the summit, President Widodo said, “The OIC was born from the urgency to support Palestine. Therefore, in line with our theme “United for a Just Solution”, OIC has to be part of the solution instead of problem. If it’s not happening, OIC will be no longer relevant. Once again I emphasize, OIC won’t be relevant.

“Israel’s illegal occupation to Palestine has been crossing global citizen’s tolerance for long time. As part of global citizen, Israel has to stop its illegal activities and policies in the region. Indonesia and the Islamic world are ready to step in with concrete policies to stop Israel’s act of occupation toward Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif (the Arabic name of Jerusalem) in particular. The Islamic world needs support from the UN, according to their roles and responsibilities. The Islamic world calls on to continue the peace process, and let’s support the independence of Palestine through “Two-State Solution.”

In her speech at the summit, Mrs Retno Marsudi said, “More than 70 years since the establishment of the United Nations, and more than 60 years since the Bandung Conference, the Palestinian People remain deprived of their rights, freedom and independence. The most serious waves of violence in Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif are still occurring.

“The excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Israeli forces is continuing. And arbitrary arrests of Palestinian civilians, including children are rampant. More than five millions of Palestinians are still living under occupation and as refugees. More than half a century of economic blockade by Israel has also forced Palestinians to live in poverty. While at the same time, Israel continues its illegal settlement, demolishing Palestinian properties and expropriating their lands in the process. Israel also continues to alter the demographic composition, character and status quo of Al-Quds Al-Sharif by imposing restriction on access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the Muslim worshippers, continuing raids, and allowing Israeli settlers to enter the holy mosque compound.

She added, “We must put an end to it. The longer the wait, the longer the denial of their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. The longer the wait, the longer the obstruction of their rights to self-determination and to its independence.”

She also announced an Indonesian pledge of USD 1.5 million annually for the next few years to help the Palestinians. This is in addition to the Indonesian contribution of a USD 1 million grant through the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

A resolution passed by the summit also noted that “the failure, thus far, to ensure consequences for Israeli violations and contempt has created a situation of total impunity that has made the achievement of the two-State solution more implausible.”

By again blocking the Indonesian FM’s visit, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has made it clear that this “impunity” will remain in place, and that Israel can continue to treat the divided and fracture Islamic world with scornful disdain. Effectively, he has told the Islamic world that Israel will remain on course to wipe Palestine off the map, and that the Muslims should consider Iran their real threat, rather than Israel.

He has made it clear that the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims today can do nothing to challenge the supremacy of 25 million Jews.

In his address the UN General Assembly on 29 September 2014, Mr Netanyahu said, “Today we, the Jewish people, have the power to defend ourselves. We will defend ourselves against our enemies on the battlefield. We will expose their lies against us in the court of public opinion. Israel will continue to stand proud and unbowed.”

He followed this up a year later with an 01 Oct 2015 speech at the UN General Assembly, effectively saying that Israel did not care about any resolutions or condemnations. He said, “Israel will not permit any force on earth to threaten its future. And here’s my message to all the countries represented here: Whatever resolutions you may adopt in this building, whatever decisions you may take in your capitals, Israel will do whatever it must do to defend our state and to defend our people.”