SINGAPORE/JAKARTA: A push for Australia to recognise a Palestinian state has been welcomed in Indonesia, whose president Joko Widodo is headed to Canberra in a fortnight for his first visit of the country in more than three years.
Widodo will meet Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in early July, returning the favour after the then newly minted Australian leader flew to Jakarta within days of Labor’s election victory last year.
Bilateral and regional issues such as trade and investment and Australia’s AUKUS submarines deal are expected to be in the spotlight as the two come face to face again.
But Widodo’s visit also coincides with a renewed drive from within Labor to recognise Palestine – an issue of major importance to Muslim-majority Indonesia – with the Victorian wing of the party passing a motion at its state conference on the weekend backing a formal acknowledgment in the current term of government.
Five years after the Morrison government said Australia would declare West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and entertained shifting the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it is a development that would be warmly received by Australia’s near neighbour.
Jusuf Kalla, Widodo’s deputy between 2014 and 2019, said yesterday an Australian decision to recognise Palestine as a state would be significant because ‘‘it will be followed by other countries’’.
‘‘If Australia recognises Palestine just as the UN Resolution [which is] the two-state solution, it will become an important step to help making peace in the Middle East particularly between Israel and Palestine,’’ said Kall.
Australia’s official position is that it supports a two-state solution involving Israel and a future Palestinian state that can co-exist peacefully.
Official recognition of Palestine risks infuriating Israel but would bring Australia into greater alignment not only with Indonesia, a long-time champion of the Palestinian cause, but with most of Asia and other close neighbours.
John McCarthy, a former Australian ambassador to Indonesia, the US, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand and an ex-Australian high commissioner to India, said acknowledging a Palestinian state would be met very positively in Jakarta.
‘‘[To Indonesians] it would show enhanced Australian understanding of global south perspectives rather than placing overwhelming emphasis on the relationships with the US, the Quad and China and the mechanisms that are pertinent to those relationships,’’ he said.
Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said it did not comment on political discourse in Australia.
‘‘For Indonesia, [a] two-state solution is the only solution,’’ he said.
Palestinian sovereignty is one of the few international issues that genuinely resonates with the average citizen in Indonesia, which does not have formal ties with Israel, and it carries great political weight as a result.
In March, Widodo’s possible successor, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, opposed the participation of an Israeli team at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia, as did Bali Governor Wayan Koster. The country was stripped of hosting rights by the sport’s world governing body but Pranowo was weeks later named as the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’s presidential candidate.