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Indonesia’s Resolute Diplomacy A Persistent Response to the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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Jakarta, IO – For the first time in history, the conflict between the Israeli army and the Hamas resistance movement in the Gaza Strip, Palestine, has dragged on, for almost four months. On Saturday morning, October 7, 2023, the international world was shocked by a series of attacks by Hamas, who fired rockets at Israeli territory on the southern Gaza border crossing. 

Codenamed Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, the attack was carried out as a manifestation of Hamas’ pent-up anger at the provocation by hundreds of illegal Jewish settlers who entered the Al Aqsa Mosque, escorted by Israeli security forces, as well as violence committed by Israel security personnel against Palestinians in the West Bank and in Israeli prisons in the preceding few months. The deadly attacks were met with a massive response from Israel, which launched the Operation Iron Sword.

The war so far has killed 26,422 civilians, mostly women and children, while the number of injured exceeded 65,000. On the Israeli side, more than 64,000 soldiers were seriously injured, thousands still unaccounted for, and according to Israeli military officials at least 220 soldiers were killed. This number will continue to increase considering that the conflict has shown no sign of abating. 

In response to the dangerous escalation, the UN General Assembly held an emergency session on October 26, 2023; the Indonesia Government through Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has demonstrated its consistent stance on every Palestinian issue that emerges, namely to demand an immediate end to the war, a push for a permanent ceasefire, call for unimpeded humanitarian assistance to Gaza, rejection of forced displacement of the Gaza population from their homeland, and engaging in diplomacy with as many countries as possible to find a just and humane solution through a two-state solution. 

The roots of the conflict 

To understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must study the historical roots of the longest conflict in the world. It was sparked by the mass migration of Jews from all over the world to Palestine, after the First World Zionist Congress in 1897 in Basel, Switzerland. There, the Jews who were scattered in European countries agreed to launch a Zionist movement or a movement to return to Zion (a holy hill in Jerusalem) and establish a “Jewish Homeland” in Palestine.

This massive migration was enabled by the British Mandate for Palestine administration which controlled Palestine at that time, as a result of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. In this declaration, the then British Foreign Secretary James Arthur Balfour in his letter to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, a leading Zionist figure, expressed the guarantee and official support of the British Mandate administration for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration sparked conflict between Arabs who had long lived in the Palestinian territories and Jewish immigrants.

The Jews argue that the Palestinian territory is theirs according to historical and religious records, while the Palestinian Arabs insisted that they have inhabited the region since the 7th century AD. Even though the actual claim for a territory by a nation or group of people who have for centuries left the territory they once inhabited is unjustifiable under international law, the Jews’ rationale has been proven to be effective in backing up their claim to the Palestinian territory. 

The ability of the Jews to migrate to Palestine was supported by the strength of their extensive organizations and comprehensive network of institutions under the World Zionist movement, such as the Jewish National Fund, tasked with purchasing land in Palestine for prospective Jewish settlers, The Jewish Colonial Trust which operates in the banking sector, and The Jewish Agency, which facilitated the relocation of Jews to Palestine. They not only bought Palestinian Arab land for a low price, but also seized Arab land by force and evicted them to accommodate Jewish settlements, an action that has become an official practice by the Israeli government to this day. 

Before the current one, there were at least three major conflicts dubbed the Arab-Israeli War. The first one erupted in 1948-49 as a result of the declaration of the founding of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, followed by the Six Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. This long conflict then ended when the Camp David peace agreement was signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979, which led a reduction in hostilities between almost all Arab countries and Israel. However, the peace agreement was deemed one-sided and still leaves many issued unresolved, because the Palestinian question was not addressed. This was the “ticking time bomb” that sparked further conflict post-Camp David. 

Hamas-Israel Conflicts 

Before the October 7 attack, conflicts between Hamas and Israel have actually occurred several times, at least four times. The first one lasted for 22 days (December 27, 2008 to January 17, 2009), the second one lasted for 8 days in November 2012, the third one lasted for 50 days (July 8 to August 26, 2014), and the fourth one lasted for 11 days in May 2021. 

Hamas is the acronym of “Harakat Al-Muqawamah Al-Islamiyah” (Movement of Islamic Resistance), a Palestinian resistance organization founded by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, a Hamas spiritual figurehead who chaired the Islamic Center in Gaza in August 1988, a few months after the first intifada in December 1987. The forerunner of the Hamas organization was the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood. Since its founding, Hamas has been active in carrying out intifada, an uprising against the Israeli army using stones or slingshots in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

To date, Hamas remains the strongest militant group in fighting Israeli oppression, and in contrast to Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) which prefers the path of peaceful negotiations. Hamas, on the other hand, rejects all forms of compromise with Israel. It is deeply suspicious of all forms of peace negotiations with Israel, because for Hamas negotiating with Israel is seen as futile and will only weaken Palestine’s bargaining position.

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