The Ticking Bomb of Jerusalem

Fitriani and Winda Edelwis Zedilla

Only heavy rain can stop the thousands of people that have been rallying for days in front of the U.S Embassy Jakarta. These people were angered by President Trump’s recent decision in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last Wednesday (6/12). This is a blow especially because this year commemorates 50 years of Israel occupation of West Bank and Gaza Strip after the Second Arab-Israeli War. As a Muslim majority population, such expression of disappointment coming from Indonesia is predictable as the people shared solidarity with Palestinians. The question is, far will President Trump’s decision influence Indonesia’s extremists in conducting violence and its government in making a counter-diplomacy, we shall see.

Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict that has been on the dispute for over seven decades. The intellectual critics toward Israel occupation and U.S support to such action often quoted the United Nations Resolution No. 181 of 1947, which states Jerusalem as a corpus separatum (Latin: “separate entity”) that shall be governed by a special international regime. This resolution was based on the knowledge that the city of Jerusalem hosts the holy sites of three religions, namely Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

In the city located Al-Aqsa Mosque, the first qibla (direction where Muslims should pray) before Muslims turned to the Holy Kaabah situated in the Grand Mosque of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. On the west side of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, located the Wailing Wall, a pilgrimage destination for Jewish all over the world. In Jerusalem, there is also the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christian belief that it is where Jesus’ tomb lies.

In 1948, the city of Jerusalem is divided into two, namely the West and the East after the First Arab-Israeli War. West Jerusalem was since under the control of Israel. After the 1967 Second Arab-Israel War, the East Jerusalem where Al-Aqsa Mosque complex is located, is also occupied by Israel. This move compelled the UN Security Council Resolution No. 242 that called for “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict, including East Jerusalem. Peace talks have been done since, including the 1993 Oslo Accords that was brokered by several nations including the US, but this diplomatic effort has been soured following President Trump’s haste move.

Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his plan to move the US Embassy to the city has created a major obstacle in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It is like turning on the switch of a ticking bomb, waiting for the anger of the non-Israeli people to reach its unbearable point.

Notification from the Telegram group of women of Daesh (Islamic State) sympathizer was ringing non-stop in the days and evening following President Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It is shocking to see how the group that was more often discussing how to be good wives and daughters under conservative Islam, then discussed how careless the decision, how it speeds the coming of apocalypse and how the president is calling to be assassinated.

There is of course only a slim opportunity for these particular women to act upon their wish, as they believed that good women are those who stay at the home, attending their children and husband. Still, tracing the history of Indonesia’s violent extremists such as the old Jemaah Islamiyah, how it recruited their team members was through inflicting the sense of emotion that Muslims in Palestine are persecuted.

The case of Palestine and how Indonesian government does not help other Muslim country’s suffering is often become one of the group’s justification for conducting i’dad (military training) in Bogor, Aceh and Poso, including making the local conflict areas as their training ground before they get the chance to fight for Muslims in Palestine.

In one interview with former terrorist Ali (not his real name), he mentioned how in the early 2000s he felt moved every time he saw the video of Palestinians under injustice, especially women and children. Ali carried on assisting Indonesia’s violent extremist group to secure arms and ammunitions that he believed will be used to fight in Palestine. He was then disappointed when they were used to fight in Indonesia, hurting fellow country people and also getting himself and his family caught.

Spending years in jail may change Ali’s standing in supporting violence, but not his belief in what is right. A couple of months ago, when we met Ali, his concern was on Muslim Rohingya and how Indonesia’s government does not care enough to ease their suffering and instead focusing on getting trade and investment from China. Interestingly enough, with the increasing conservativeness of Indonesia’s Muslim, as shown in the September 2017 SEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute survey, the government especially President Joko Widodo’s Cabinet is pressed to act in countering the Jerusalem issue.

Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, have joined a global chorus of condemnation of Trump’s announcement, including Western allies who say it is a blow to peace efforts and risks sparking more violence since Indonesia has the largest responsibility toward the independence of Palestine and the management of Jerusalem.

President Joko Widodo strongly condemned Trump’s action and stated Indonesia is absolutely consistent to support Palestine to fight for their independence as well as their rights based on The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia Whereas “independence is a genuine right of all nations and any form of alien occupation should thus be erased from the earth as not in conformity with humanity and justice, and to contribute to the implementation of a world order based on freedom, lasting peace and social justice“. 

Indonesia’s stance is clear and has been proven by being proactive to approach the Islamic Organization Conference (IOC) member states in urging the emergency meeting in Istanbul recently. In addition, Indonesia’s government has also requested the United Nations Security Council to immediately respond to the Israeli occupation and its collaborator, the U.S with more decisive and concrete political and diplomatic actions in saving the Palestinians.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi has spoken to the U.S Ambassador, Joseph R Donovan Jr. in Jakarta to express her concern towards Palestine and Israel peace. She left for Jordan to convey Indonesia’s full support for Palestine by meeting Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi and Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki. Besides that, in order to strengthen the support, Retno also invited British Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson and German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel to support Palestine. 

Since this situation became a global concern, some policy recommendations shall be considered in order to put this crisis to end. First foremost, strongly enforce Donald Trump to cancel the transfer of the U.S Embassy to Jerusalem until the United Nations decide the status of both countries in order to stop the tension. Furthermore, PPIP urged Trump to revoke its decision and urged the OIC to take political and diplomatic measures to cancel or ignore the U.S decision.

Secondly, the international pressure shall be increased against President Trump’s one-sided action which will be hampering the process of Israel and Palestine peace by urging other countries not to follow the U.S decisions. Thus far, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany, Turkey,

Britain, Russia, China, Indonesia, and the Vatican has criticized President Trump’s move. However, despite the US is a declining power, this move is ineffective if is not coupled with an effort to demand the country to change its policy.

Thirdly, one proposal to solve contestation for Jerusalem is to return to the UN Resolution No. 181 of 1947 in making Jerusalem the International Holy City for the followers of three religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But if it is necessary, Jerusalem needs to be divided into the capital city of both Israel and Palestine under the legitimate jurisdiction as the sovereignty must follow the fact before the war in 1967. So then the rights to live can be achieved under the United Nations protection. 

Last but not least, Indonesia can help Palestine by aggressively approaching all countries, the ASEAN, the UN and other international communities to increase their moral support, political support, diplomatic support, as well as economic support towards Palestine. The most important thing is Indonesia’s big role to increase the international recognition towards “the State of Palestine”

*Fitriani is a researcher and Winda Edelwis Zedilla is a research assistant at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies

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