January 25, 2024
JAKARTA – The failure to ensure that Israel acts in compliance with international law amid the stalled process toward realizing a two-state solution could further plunge the Middle East into a wider open conflict, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has warned.
The cautionary remark, made at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) open debate on the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, came amid widespread fear of a wider regional conflict involving neighboring countries, and growing calls for Israel to de-escalate its military activities.
Over 100 days since the crisis in Gaza sparked, divisions between the international community on the matter continue to deepen, increasingly putting the Middle East on edge. Fire exchanges between the region’s pro-Palestine rebel groups and Israel and its allies have thickened tensions in the Red Sea, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, further destabilizing the region amid sluggish diplomatic progress.
“The threat of a full-blown war in the Middle East is a real and present danger in this context,” Retno said, demanding the UNSC to penalize Israel’s continued aggression.
Reiterating Indonesia’s call for a permanent cease-fire, Retno added that “immediate full membership in the UN” must be granted to Palestine to start a fair, balanced peace process, as well as a stop to the flow of arms into Israel.
Israel has been procuring most of its weapons from the United States, but other countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada and Germany have also been exporting their arms to Tel Aviv.
“Every weapon sent to Israel can be used to kill innocent civilians,” Retno said.
Since the 75-year conflict reached its new height on Oct. 7, the UNSC has passed two resolutions calling for adherence to international law, especially concerning the safety of civilians, as well as urging for the realization of the two-state solution.
Yet defending its action as self-defense, Israel’s attacks have continued to target public facilities and civilian infrastructure. Then, last week, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu again signaled a refusal to de-escalate, saying that the Palestinian sovereignty required for a two-state solution would be incompatible with Israel’s security.
“Indonesia strongly rejects [Netanyahu’s] statement. This statement is unacceptable. This confirmed Israel’s ultimate goal: to wipe Palestine from the world map,” Retno said on Tuesday.
“How many resolutions have been adopted in Palestine? How many are in force? Where must Palestine go [when] the council fails to act on its own solution while Israel kills Palestinians with impunity?”
Indonesia’s concerns were by no means isolated, with dozens of countries in the New York meeting expressing similar fears. They said that Israel’s rejection of the two-state solution would only impede peace in the Middle East.
Lebanon, whose militant group Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli forces at its border, warned countries against falling into the “Israeli trap” of regionalizing the war, underlining that “Lebanon does not want war”.
Meanwhile Iran, a regional power that has been backing some of the Middle East’s militant groups, cautioned that Israel’s allies were making a strategic mistake, adding that a referendum with the full participation of Palestinians would be the only viable solution.
The US, while still maintaining that Hamas was to blame for the escalation, requested that Israel adhere to international law and increase its efforts to protect civilians, all while asserting that the two-state solution “is the only guarantor to end this violence once and for all”.
“The risk of broader regional escalation is now becoming a reality,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the debate. “The risk of miscalculation is dangerously high. I urge all parties to refrain from aggressive rhetoric, and to immediately end activities that could further inflame tensions.”