Israel is willing to work towards establishing ties with Southeast Asia’s Muslim majority nations, its ambassador to Singapore said yesterday.
The announcement comes despite their condemnation of Israel’s air strikes on the besieged Gaza Strip last month.
For 11 days, Israel launched attacks on the blockaded Gaza Strip. Health officials in Gaza say 254 Palestinians, including 66 children and 39 women, were killed and more than 1,900 wounded in the bombardments.
Muslim-majority nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei had urged the United Nations to step in and stop “the atrocities carried out against the Palestinian people.”
In a statement last month, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the Sultan of Brunei termed Israel’s air strikes on Gaza part of an “inhumane, colonial and apartheid” policy toward the people of Palestine.
“We condemn in the strongest term the repeated blatant violations and aggressions, carried out by the Israelis, targeting civilians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which has killed, injured and caused suffering to many, including women and children,” the statement added.
The three countries do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and have repeatedly called for an end to its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.
Israel’s Ambassador to Singapore, Sagi Karni, said, Israel needs to protect its citizens, but that it has “no quarrel” with any countries in Southeast Asia.
“We would like to expand the circle of peace also, to the Muslim countries here in the region,” he said.
“But we cannot force it upon them,” he added. “It’s up to them to join, and they know that we’re interested, but they also have their own internal political considerations.”
Last year’s normalisation deals signed by the UAE and Bahrain, followed by Sudan and Morocco, were denounced by the Palestinians who claimed the states had abandoned a unified position under which Arab countries would make peace only under a two-state solution, negotiations for which have been deadlocked for years.
“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,” Sagi added.