The Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement today on the visit of an Israeli team of diplomats to the country last week for a UN conference, the first visit in Malaysia’s national history.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to clarify that Israel’s participation was based on an invitation issued by the United Nations, through its agency the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat),” Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato Sri Anifah Aman said in a press release.
The statement emphasised that the Malaysia was reluctant to admit the Israeli delegation, but were obligated by UN rules to allow participating countries to attend the conference.
“It needs to be emphasised that unlike the other letters of invitation, the letter of invitation to Israel was not signed by any Malaysian official. Therefore, the issue of Malaysia tacitly establishing links with Israel through the hosting of this Forum does not arise.”
“Our position on Israel remains unchanged. To imply otherwise is an indication of malicious and malignant intent,” the statement concluded.
The statement did not clarify the alleged meeting that took place between Malaysian officials and the Israeli delegation headed by senior diplomat David Roet.
In a statement, Roet revealed that the two parties had met, and whilst they did not deal directly with Israel-Malaysia relations, Roet reportedly argued in the meeting that Malaysia’s boycott of Israel did not benefit the Palestinian cause.
“I told them that we have relations with a number of countries that don’t agree with us on the conflict with the Palestinians, but with whom we maintain good ties.”
Malaysia and Israel have no formal diplomatic ties, but official data published in 2014 by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics revealed a very discreet, trade relationship totalling some $1.5 billion a year.
The Malaysian public have strongly supported the Palestinian cause and the country witnessed numerous demonstrations last year in protest of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also stated at the time that the Malaysian Armed Forces were ready to perform their duty towards the Palestinians and “were waiting for instructions from the top leadership”.