By Pizaro Gozali Idrus
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said Thursday he would press his American counterpart Joe Biden to help stop the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip when they meet next week at the White House.
Jokowi, the leader of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, was scheduled to speak with Biden on Monday, ahead of a summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders in San Francisco from Nov. 15-17, according to a White House statement.
The two leaders will discuss ways to strengthen the strategic partnership between Indonesia and the U.S., advance the clean energy transition and boost economic growth, the White House said.
But a topic that is likely to dominate their conversation is the escalating conflict in Gaza, where more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli bombardments following an Oct. 7 surprise attack by the militant group Hamas in southern Israel, which killed 1,400 people, according to reports.
The increasingly dire humanitarian situation in the strip has inflamed public anger in the Muslim world, the leaders of which will attend a special summit convened by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Nov. 12 to discuss the issue. Widodo, who is popularly known as Jokowi, will fly to Saudi Arabia on Friday night for the emergency meeting.
“From there, I will fly to meet President Joe Biden. 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.
Indonesia has long been a vocal supporter of Palestinian and a fierce critic of Israel’s most recent military offensive in Gaza.
The Indonesian government will use every opportunity and international forum to call for a cease-fire and humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza, said Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin, a senior adviser to the presidential staff office.
“Indonesia will also continue to support international and multilateral efforts for Palestinian independence,” she told BenarNews.
“As our foreign minister emphasized at the U.N. General Assembly: Enough is enough.”
Jokowi may press Biden to take a more assertive stance against Israel, which is a close ally of the U.S.
An editorial published Tuesday in the Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s oldest English-language paper, urged the president to “stay tough on Israel as a matter of constitutional principle and to calm the public anger at the continuing violence against the Palestinians.”
The Indonesian president “also needs to express his disappointment with Hamas,” it said.
The Indonesian foreign ministry this week expressed concern that Israel has targeted the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza, a facility funded by the Indonesian government and civil society to provide medical services to Palestinians.
The Israeli military has accused Hamas of using the hospital as a launchpad for attacks, a claim that the hospital operator has denied.
Yon Machmudi, a Middle East researcher at the University of Indonesia, said a cease-fire and a two-state solution should be on the agenda for the presidential meeting.
“A peaceful solution must be prioritized by conducting a peace dialogue that involves the parties in conflict,” he told BenarNews.
“Hamas must be involved in the effort to build peace because the group is one of those that represents the Palestinian people at a grassroots level,” he said. “Surely the U.S. still remembers its failure in imposing a puppet government in Afghanistan.”
Indonesia should also ask Biden to ensure Israel does not reoccupy Gaza, he said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s suggestion that his country will maintain security operations in the strip for an “indefinite period” after the war ends.
Israel’s relentless airstrikes in Gaza, which have reduced entire neighborhoods to rubble, have raised fears about the conflict escalating into a regional war.
Fighting has already flared on Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria, while American bases in the region have seen an uptick in attacks.
“If the international community does not take this seriously, the fear of a wider war could become a reality. We have seen that Arab countries are not just passive bystanders, but also potential victims of the Israel-Palestine conflict,” said Ryantori, an analyst at the Indonesian Institute for Middle East Studies, who goes by only one name.
Another issue that may feature in the discussions between Jokowi and Biden is the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), a deal launched at the Group of 20 summit in Bali last year to wean Indonesia off fossil fuels.
The JETP aims to mobilize $20 billion in public and private financing to help Indonesia shift towards renewable energy sources, in line with its commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 29% by 2030.
The deal includes an ambitious pathway to reduce power sector emissions, a strategy based on the expansion of renewable energy, and the phase down of coal. It also promises to support a just transition that considers the social and economic impacts of the energy shift on workers, communities and society.
However, Jokowi recently cast doubt on the Western countries’ commitment to helping developing countries cut carbon emissions, citing a delay in delivery of the $20 billion in funds.
“Don’t question Indonesia’s commitment towards [the] energy transition. What I’m questioning is the commitment of the developed states,” Jokowi said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Monday.
He said he had raised the issue in May at the G7 summit in Japan and the G20 summit in India in September.
“Indonesia has walked the talk. We have even gone so far as developing the electric vehicle industry to support green energy,” he said.
Indonesian officials are frustrated with Washington’s slow progress on the JETP, complaining that the U.S. has pushed them to make hard choices without offering enough low-cost financing, Scot Marciel, U.S. ambassador to Indonesia in 2010-2013, wrote in The Diplomat Thursday.
“Some Indonesian officials have contrasted that with substantial Chinese funding on priority infrastructure initiatives, highlighting the regional perception of U.S. weakness vis-à-vis China as a reliable economic partner,” he said.
He noted, however, that the U.S. is Indonesia’s second-biggest export market and has quickly become its fourth-largest source of foreign direct investment.
China has been a major source of funding and investment for Indonesia’s infrastructure projects, such as the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, which began commercial operations in October after years of delays and controversies.
The railway is part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a program to build a modern-day Silk Road through a network of infrastructure projects connecting the Asian superpower with other continents and regions.