In this webinar, Dr Broto Wardoyo discussed the development of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, public perception of this issue, and overall, Indonesia’s foreign policy under President Joko Widodo. Dr Evan Laksmana raised questions on the strategic interests of Indonesia in the Palestinian conflict and the country’s position in fight against oppression and colonialism.
INDONESIA STUDIES PROGRAMME
Tuesday, 27 July 2021 – ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute invited Dr Broto Wardoyo, the Head of the Postgraduate Program at the Department of International Relations, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Indonesia, to speak in a webinar on “Challenges for Indonesia’s Diplomacy in Israel-Palestine Conflict.” The Institute also invited Dr Evan Laksmana, Senior Researcher at the Centre of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Indonesia, as a discussant. The webinar was moderated by Dr Leo Suryadinata (Senior Visiting Fellow at ISEAS).
Dr Wardoyo began the session with an overview of the Indonesia-Palestine relationship and Indonesia’s support for Palestinian independence. He argued that Indonesians are more Palestinian than Palestinians in a sense that the public support towards Palestinian issues is high. Dr Wardoyo also mentioned that Indonesia has been consistent in their support towards Palestine on all diplomatic fronts at the international stage, including in the United Nation Security Council. Domestically, there were cases of mass-protesting by various Islamic fronts that supported Palestinian independence across the country. Indonesia houses diverse Islamic groups that have become prominent political Islam actors over the years. This increasing penetration of Islam into politics has emerged after the reformasi.
Dr Wardoyo shared that President Joko Widodo is the first presidential candidate who openly supported Palestine in his political campaign. During the 2014 Presidential Election, together with his running mate Mr Jusuf Kalla, Mr Widodo expressed his commitment to supporting Palestine as an independent country and a member of the United Nations. He promised the same in the 2019 election while bringing the concept of moderate Islam (wasathiyyah) to engage in deeper relations with Muslim countries worldwide and fight for Palestine’s independence. However, Dr Wardoyo argued that Mr Widodo’s commitment to the Palestinian issues did not necessarily manifest in his administration. For instance, the number of treaties between the two states remained the same from the previous administration during President Yudhoyono’s era. Moreover, he observed a limited commitment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and higher public interest on the Timor Leste issue than Palestine’s in Indonesia’s foreign policy.
Analysing the gaps between state and society, Dr Wardoyo observed how the state looked at the West Bank and Gaza Strip occupation as a form of colonialism. At the same time, most Indonesians perceived Islamic brotherhood as the foundation to support the Palestinians. Additionally, he noticed a disparity across Muslim communities in perceiving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. While some groups perceived the Palestinian-Israeli issue as a purely religious conflict, others perceived it as a political problem from a nationalist perspective. Dr Wardoyo also explained the politicisation of Islam and stronger Islamic identity had made the Muslims’ voice and identity a critical factor in Indonesian politics. He also mentioned the commodification of Palestinian issues as a potential challenge due to the lack of control over donation management.
Dr Evan Laksmana highlighted the detailed political dynamics of Indonesian foreign policy on the Palestinian issue in Dr Wardoyo’s presentation. Asking questions on the Indonesian strategic interests to prioritise the problem in its foreign policy agenda, Dr Laksmana sought the benefits of Indonesia’s involvement in such matter. Moreover, taking a comparative perspective other than Palestine, he argued that Indonesia has been inconsistent in supporting the fight against oppression and colonisalisation, as evident in Xinjiang, Thailand, and Myanmar. Dr Laskmana also questioned whether the Palestinian issue represented a trend of Islamisation and the possibility of reconciling this. Finally, he noticed limited evidence of an effective electoral strategy by raising the Palestinian matters in a political campaign.
The webinar concluded with a Q&A session that discussed issues ranging from Indonesia’s economic interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, political entrepreneurship who can bring this issue to the other region, and the possibility of Indonesia establishing diplomatic relations, normalising ties, and amending the constitution to improve the country’s ties with Israel. The webinar attracted 62 participants from Singapore and abroad.