Photo: AFP
Shalom: Islam not the enemy
Photo: AFP
Photo: Reuters
President of Indonesia. Warming up to Israel?
Photo: Reuters

Shalom: Islam not an enemy

Foreign minister publishes opinion piece in popular Indonesian newspaper, calls for dialogue between Israel, Palestinians and Muslim world

Mini-history in Indonesia: For the first time in the world's most populated Muslim state's history, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom published an opinion piece in one of Indonesia's most popular English-language newspapers.


"Israel does not see Islam as an enemy and has never seen it as such. On the contrary, history has shown us that Jews and Muslims lived in peace, harmony and friendship for many years in the past. This should be the aim for the future," Shalom wrote in the Jakarta Post. 


According to diplomatic sources, the publication of the article marks a breakthrough in relations between

Israel and Indonesia. The publication of Shalom's piece, entitled "Time for a dialog to resolve the Palestinian issue," was a mutual initiative by the minister and the newspaper.


In the article, Shalom also wrote: "Nor should the Palestinian issue serve as an obstacle to such contact. Indeed, at a time when Israel enjoys peaceful relations with Egypt and Jordan, and open contacts with the Palestinians and many others of our Arab and Muslim neighbors, there is no reason for other Islamic countries to persist with the boycotts of the past."


'We need to be able to talk to each other'


"One of the central challenges we face in building such dialog is the fact that in certain parts of the world, information and knowledge about Israel has been deliberately biased and one-sided for many decades. This "knowledge" is often designed to foster hatred and to incite violence and hostility against us," Shalom wrote.


"The true picture of Israel is less well-known. Many people are unaware, for example, that the modern state of Israel is an open, democratic and pluralistic society in which multiculturalism is an inherent part of daily life. There is also a broad lack of knowledge about Israel's far-reaching achievements in the fields of hi-tech, medicine, and scientific research, and the fact that Israel shares its know-how with many countries around the world. We are happy to do the same with Indonesia," he added 


"For such mutually beneficial cooperation to develop, we need to be able to talk to each other. We need to understand each other better, and to remove the barriers of the past, so that we may build cooperation and friendship for the future. Now is the time to begin this dialog," Shalom concluded.


'Historical event'


The publication of the article bears important symbolic significance, Israeli ambassador to Singapore Ilan Ben Dov said.


In a report to the Foreign Ministry, Ben Dov wrote: "While trying not to get carried away, I believe we can say that history was made Monday, with the publication of the foreign minister's opinion piece in this important newspaper, distributed in the world's largest Muslim country."


However, it appears that the matter represents not only a symbolic warming in relations, but also a concrete improvement in the ties between the two countries.


In his last visit to New York, during the United Nation's General Assembly, Shalom was reported to have met with his Indonesian counterpart, but diplomatic sources refused to confirm the report at the time.


Sources in Jerusalem also stressed Monday that the phrase, "a time for dialog," in Shalom's article refers to his stance that Israel must refrain from unilateral moves in the future.


This fits in with the minister's statement earlier this week that progress in the political process with the Palestinians can ensue only with mutual understanding and according to the Road Map plan.


Any state that wishes to be involved in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians cannot be solely associated with the Palestinians, but must be perceived to be an impartial mediator, one of the sources added.


פרסום ראשון: 10.03.05, 16:00
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