Jerusalem Issue: Indonesia's Unquiet Diplomacy


DECEMBER 19, 2017

"Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin" — these words, translated as "numbered, numbered, weighed, divided," appear on the wall during Belshazzar's feast in the Book of Daniel.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will lead the Indonesian delegation to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) extraordinary summit meeting on Wednesday (13/12). It will be critical for the government to state that the United States never consulted its "abhorrent" decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Indonesia has to be prepared to face the results of the OIC meeting and the repercussions of the US decision. Is Jerusalem going to share the fate of the ancient Israelite Kingdom?

US Embassy's Communique

"Indonesia condemns the announcement of the president of the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Dec.7, during the 10th Bali Democracy Forum held in Tangerang, Banten.

Initially, the US Embassy said it had talked about its decision with the Indonesian government, but Retno has denied that claim.

US Ambassador Joseph R. Donovan Jr. said the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the embassy from Tel Aviv was discussed with other countries, including Indonesia.

He also said that the United States supports  the "status quo" of Al-Aqsa Mosque and is "committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis."

Retno immediately expressed her disappointment over the statement.

"I read on one of the online media sites that the US ambassador came to me for a consultation. I want to explain that the US ambassador spoke to me, because I called [him], and what I said was the position of Indonesia, which asked [him] to convey to his government," she said.

Minister Retno then flew to Amman, Jordan, to meet the Palestinian stakeholders before she proceeded to Istanbul to join Jokowi.

UNSC Emergency Meeting

On Dec. 8, the United Nations Security Council convened an "emergency meeting" to discuss President Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

In the said meeting, US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, roundly rejected the criticism from other countries. Haley said it was "simple common sense that foreign embassies be located" in Jerusalem. She said that Jerusalem now is the home to Israel's parliament, several government ministries and the offices of the president and prime minister.

Haley further said that with its decision, the US has not taken a position on boundaries or borders. The US has not advocated for any change in the administration around "holy sites" in Jerusalem, and it has not predetermined Jerusalem final status issues.

Indonesia should reaffirm its position to support an independent Palestine based on the right of self-determination and to encourage the status quo of Jerusalem as the holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It's important to note that the government's support for Palestine has never based on religious sentiment whatsoever.

Let's wait and see.

Iskandar Hadrianto is a foreign policy analyst. He is a former senior diplomat and official at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also worked for the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.