Jerusalem Comments: Implications for the Australian-Indonesian Relationship


Prime Minster Scott Morrison announced on 16 October that his government is considering recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the Australian embassy. The suggestion drew a strong reaction from Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who said that the move was a slap in the face to Indonesia on the Palestinian issue, and warned that it would affect bilateral relations. Reports also surfaced after the announcement that Indonesia had threatened to review its position on the long-awaited Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA).


For many Indonesians, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a sensitive topic, with the vast majority strongly supporting the Palestinian side, primarily due to a common religion and shared experiences.  In both countries, the majority of the population follows the Shafi’i school of Sunni Islam. Indonesia also has a history of facing oppression, having experienced Dutch colonial rule and Japanese occupation. From the perspective of many Indonesians, their Muslim brothers and sisters are being oppressed by a non-Muslim power, just as they were in the past. That shared sense of history and beliefs has created a close people-to-people bond between Indonesians and Palestinians. That bond was especially clear during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, where the cheers for the Palestinian athletic team from the Indonesian crowd were beaten only by the cheers for their home team.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi seems to share that view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has made support for Palestine an integral part of her ministry’s agenda. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a Solidarity Week for Palestine (SWP) on 13-17 October, where Marsudi met with her Palestinian counterpart to pledge further support. It is no surprise then, that Marsudi had a strong reaction to Morrison’s comments that Australia may move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. Indonesia and Australia hold opposing views when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Australia is one of the fifty countries that do not recognise the state of Palestine and Indonesia is one of the 34 countries that do not recognise the state of Israel.

Read the article by Jarryd de Haan, Research Analyst, Indian Ocean Research Programme on the Future Directions International website.