Indonesia, Palestine explore closer trade, cultural cooperation

Indonesia and Palestine have always shared a strong relationship and forged close cooperation despite the geographical distance between them.

Palestine was among the first nations to have recognized Indonesias declaration of independence on August 17, 1945, and Indonesia has been a staunch supporter for Palestines liberation from the occupation of Israel.

“As long as Palestine does not gain its independence, Indonesia will keep challenging the Israeli occupation,” President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had said in his opening remarks at an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), held in Jakarta on March 7, 2016.

The presidents observation was a direct quote from the response of the countrys founding father President Sukarno given to a reporter, who asked him in 1962 as to why Indonesia did not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

So far, all seven Indonesian presidents have been consistent in supporting Palestines struggle for independence.

Such a stance is, in fact, in line with the countrys Constitution, UUD1945, which states that Indonesia is against colonialism on Earth.

Under the Jokowi administration, Indonesia realized its long overdue plan to open an honorary consulate in Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine, in March 2016.

Foreign Affairs Minister Retno LP Marsudi had traveled a long way from Jakarta to Amman, Jordan, to inaugurate Maha Alkhus Hussein, who is also known as Maha Abu Shusheh, as Indonesias first-ever lady honorary consul to Palestine, on March 13.

In October this year, Maha made her visit to Jakarta in her capacity as the honorary consul. She came to Indonesia with a 42-member business delegation.

She was received by Minister Retno at her office on Oct. 12. Also in attendance were five Palestinian businesspersons, the Palestinian Embassy Charg’ d’ffaires Thahir Hamad and Indonesia’s Ambassador to Jordan.

Maha, a successful businesswoman herself, and the minister discussed improving bilateral cooperation, especially in the economic, trade, and tourism fields.

Palestine wished to explore tax exemption cooperation with Indonesia, so that Palestinian products, such as olive oil and dates, which are not produced in Indonesia, can be widely enjoyed by the Indonesian people.

In addition, Palestine hoped that Indonesian investors would invest in the Information Technology and Agribusiness sectors so that graduates from six Palestinian universities can remain and work in their homeland.

More youth employment in Palestine would be considered the better. The youth feel that if they stand their ground, they can counter Israeli policies of evicting Palestinians and claiming Palestinian land. Currently, the unemployment level in Gaza and the West Bank is pegged at between 40 and 50 percent.

Furthermore, the delegation also discussed the potential for cultural cooperation through building the Indonesia House in Palestine. Maha also proposed the opening of Indonesian language classes so that Indonesian culture becomes better known.

Indonesias stature has grown in the country, particularly after the establishment of the Indonesian Hospital, funded with donations from the Indonesian people, which was inaugurated in early 2016.

Also, two years ago, a Palestine-Indonesia Friendship Institution was established and has so far been run by volunteers.

Minister Retno noted that proposals for cooperation from Palestine will be studied since it is already part of Indonesia’s commitment of providing capacity building aid for the Palestinian people, including strengthening the economy.

In every international conference on Palestine, Indonesia continues to voice support for Palestinian independence.

The Honorary Consul and the Palestinian business delegation were in Jakarta to attend the Trade Expo Indonesia (TEI) 2016 held from Oct 12 to 16, and is expected to ink business deals with Indonesian businesspeople.

They also held a meeting with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerces Middle East Committee to discuss efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation in trade and the economy.

When inaugurating the honorary consul some seven months ago, Minister Retno had expressed hope that Maha could serve effectively to promote bilateral relations between Indonesia and Palestine.

“I hope the honorary consul in Ramallah will play an active role in fostering brotherhood between the Indonesian and Palestinian people,” she had remarked in Amman.

The honorary consul is tasked with serving and protecting Indonesians and Indonesian corporate bodies in Palestine, she affirmed.

In addition, the honorary consul is tasked with intensifying bilateral cooperation in the areas of economy, trade, tourism, investment, labor issue, service, and culture, she pointed out.

“Indonesian support for the Palestinian cause has never dwindled, and today, we move one step forward with the inauguration of an honorary consul in Ramallah,” she affirmed.

The inauguration of the honorary consul followed the Fifth Extraordinary OIC Summit on Palestine and Al Quds Al Sharif held in Jakarta on March 6 and 7 this year.

President Jokowi had announced the assignment of Maha as the countrys first honorary consul for Palestine at the extraordinary summit.

“Permit me to announce that Indonesia has named Mrs Maha Alkhus Hussein as its honorary consul for Palestine,” Jokowi had said at the conference.

Source: Antara News