Indonesia’s leader Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will tell U.S. President Joe Biden that the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas should be stopped when the two leaders meet in Washington next week.
The meeting will take place on Monday, ahead of a summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders in San Francisco from November 15-17.
Speaking to reporters prior to his departure for Saudi Arabia, where he will attend an emergency summit of Islamic nations on the Israel-Hamas war before heading to Washington, Jokowi said that he had been delegated to pass its message onto the U.S. president.
“Because from the OIC summit, I will be entrusted to convey to President Joe Biden that the war between Hamas and Israel should be stopped immediately,” he said, according to BenarNews.
The current war began with incursions by the Palestinian militant group into southern Israel on October 7, which saw them kill more than 1,000 Israelis, many of them civilians. This has prompted a ruthless counteroffensive by the Israeli Defense Forces that has already killed more than 10,000 Gazans, according to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Ministry of Health.
The Israel-Palestine issue was not mentioned in the White House statement detailing the agenda of the meeting, which only noted that the two leaders “will explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on the clean energy transition, advance economic prosperity, bolster regional peace and stability, and reinforce our people-to-people ties.” It added that Jokowi and Biden “will also coordinate on efforts to reinforce ASEAN centrality and uphold international law and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Clearly, the Biden administration would prefer that the issue – and by implication, its strong support for Israel’s counterattacks on the Gaza Strip – not be raised in the bilateral discussions. But as former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia Scot Marciel noted in these pages yesterday, the issue remains crucially important for Indonesia, which has long been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and a fierce critic of Israel’s most recent military offensive in Gaza.
This view is shared by a large swathe of the Indonesian public and is shaping up as an important part of the foreign policy debate prior to February’s presidential election. Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has been particularly outspoken, addressing a massive pro-Palestinian rally in the center of the Indonesian capital on November 5.
In the immediate aftermath of the October 7 attacks, Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry called for an “immediate end of violence,” and like its neighbor Malaysia, said that “the root of the conflict, namely the occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel, must be resolved, in accordance with the parameters agreed upon by the U.N.”
Jokowi subsequently repeated a similar message, calling for an immediate ceasefire and for “the root cause of the conflict, which is the occupation of Palestinian land by Israel,” to be “resolved immediately” in accordance with United Nations agreements. Since then, Jokowi has announced a shipment of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.
As the leader of the world’s most populist Muslim-majority state, it is domestically important that Jokowi use his meeting with Biden to communicate the fervent concerns of the Indonesian public on this issue.
As Parker Novak wrote for the Atlantic Council this week, “Jokowi needs to show Indonesians that he’s standing up for Palestinians, and Washington provides a tailor-made forum for doing so.” But in doing so, “he risks raising the ire of some U.S. officials, particularly in Congress where many members hold strongly pro-Israel views.”
That said, the U.S. State Department is no doubt well aware of Indonesia’s stance on the issue, which has been consistent for decades. While U.S.-Indonesia relations are currently in an uncertain state, disagreements over the Israel-Palestine conflict will likely remain contained.