Monday, June 15, 2009

RI questions Israel’s ‘sincerity’ in endorsing Palestinian state

Ary Hermawan , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta

Indonesia said Monday the major “peace” speech made by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he conditionally endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state, “lacked clear direction”, and questioned if the about-face was “sincere”.

Reversing the stance he had held for decades before assuming office, Netanyahu said Sunday for the first-time that Israel would endorse a Palestinian state, but on conditions the future Palestinian state would not have an army and would recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“The Palestinians have the right to fight against oppression by any means, including the use of weapons,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said.

Indonesia, he said, also questioned the implications of Israel’s request that Palestinians recognize the Jewishness of Israel.

“Does it mean the Palestinian refugees will be denied their rights to return to their homeland and non-Jewish people will not be allowed to live in Israel?”

The Palestinian authorities slammed Netanyahu’s speech as “racist” and rejected his idea of an independent Palestinian state without an army. The US, the key player in the Middle East quartet, praised the speech, calling Israel’s backing for a Palestinian state a step “in the right direction”. The EU gave it a “cautious welcome”.

Indonesia, a Dutch colony for decades before gaining independence in 1945, has consistently supported the Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli occupation. It demands a two-state solution for the conflict based on borders prior to the 1967 Middle East war, thus rejecting Netanyahu’s renewed insistence Jerusalem will be Israel’s undivided capital.

While hosting the UN meeting on Palestine last week, Indonesia called on the international community to push Israel to end its occupation of Palestine and punish the Jewish nation for its alleged war crimes against unarmed civilians.

Hamdan Basyar, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia’s Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, doubted Israel’s peace rhetoric, saying, “They agree to endorse a Palestinian state, but they also want to have it under their control”.

The speech, he argued, was nothing but a compromise Netanyahu had to make as he was now facing two-way pressure: one from the hardliners inside his right-leaning coalition government and the other from the United States, once Israel’s strongest backer before US President Barack Obama took office and bid to mend the US image after eight years of George Bush’s reckless foreign policy.

Obama has welcomed the speech, saying he is committed to a two-state solution and would work with all parties to see the Israeli and Palestinian authorities fulfill their obligations and head toward regional peace.

Hamdan said Obama should not be so easily satisfied by Netanyahu’s speech, which overlooked the main issues, such as the freezing of settlement expansion in the West Bank, which has undermined peace process and creation of a Palestinian state.

“Obama must not let Israel go forward with their agenda. A Palestinian state without a military power to defend itself is useless.”

A senior politician from the Muslim-based National Mandate Party (PAN), Abdillah Toha, slammed Netanyahu’s speech, saying “it is not a speech of peace”.

The Israeli leader, he said, had instead “slammed the door to peace” by rejecting the conditions deemed essential to achieving a two-state solution. “The speech’s substance is basically against Obama’s two-state solution.”

The US is seen as the only political power capable of forcing Israel to press the Middle East peace process forward.

“But then Obama has to face challenges in his own country on the issue. We know how strong the Jewish lobby in the US is,” Abdillah said.