Israel willing to establish ties with Southeast Asia's Muslim majority nations

Israel’s ambassador to Singapore says Israel willing to work to establish ties with Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Elad Benari ,

Jakarta, Indonesia
Jakarta, Indonesia

Israel is willing to work towards establishing ties with Southeast Asia's Muslim majority nations despite their condemnation in May of Israeli air strikes on Gaza, Israel’s ambassador to Singapore said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The region's three Muslim-majority states - Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei - sharply criticized Israel’s air strikes on Gaza during Operation Guardian of the Walls and urged the United Nations to step in and stop "the atrocities carried out against the Palestinian people".

Sagi Karni, Israel's ambassador to Singapore, told Reuters the criticism from the three nations' leaders was "not honest" and ignored "the true nature of the conflict", which he said was between Israel and Hamas and not the Palestinian people.

"Hamas is an anti-Semitic organization ... I'm not sure that many of the people participating in social media debates truly understand the radical and fascist nature of Hamas," he said.

Karni added that Israel acknowledged there were civilian casualties during the 11-day hostilities, but that the only way for any party to have meaningful influence over what happens in the Middle East was by establishing relations with Israel.

"We are willing to talk, we are willing to meet, and the door is open as far as we are concerned. I don't think it's so difficult to find us," he stated.

Indonesia, which is home to the world's biggest Muslim population, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Several years ago, Indonesian President Joko Widodo called on Muslim nations to unite in fighting Israel. Last year, the country’s foreign minister expressed her country’s firm position in support of the Palestinian Authority in ending the “Israeli occupation of its land”.

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has a lengthy history of statements against Israel and Jewish people. In 2012, he wrote on his personal blog that “Jews rule this world by proxy.”

In August of 2018, Mohamad defended his right to be anti-Semitic, arguing that anti-Semitism is an artificial construct created to silence critics of the Jews.

In October that year, he said that Jews are "hook-nosed" and accused them of creating problems in the Middle East.

After former US President Donald Trump presented his “Deal of the Century” for peace between Israel and the PA, Mohamad slammed the proposal as a “mockery”.