| 26 February 2024, Monday |

Israel is eager to build relationships with Muslim countries in Southeast Asia

Despite their condemnation of Israeli air strikes on Gaza in May, Israel’s ambassador to Singapore said on Thursday that his country is eager to work toward developing connections with Southeast Asia’s Muslim majority countries.

During 11 days of warfare in which medics reported over 250 Palestinians were killed and 13 people were murdered in Israel by rockets fired by Hamas and other Islamist militant organizations, the region’s three Muslim-majority states – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei – harshly criticized Israeli strikes.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei had urged the United Nations to step in and stop “the atrocities carried out against the Palestinian people”.

The three countries have no formal relations with Israel and have consistently called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and a two-state solution based on pre- 1967 Middle East borders.

Israel’s ambassador to Singapore, Sagi Karni, said the three leaders’ criticism was “not honest” and missed “the fundamental character of the conflict,” which he said was between Israel and Hamas rather than the Palestinian people.

“Hamas is an anti-Semitic organization … I’m not sure that many of the people participating in social media debates truly understand the radical and fascist nature of Hamas,” he told Reuters in a video interview. Hamas rejects accusations of anti-Semitism.

Karni stated that while Israel acknowledged civilian losses during the 11-day conflict, developing connections with Israel was the only option for any party to have meaningful influence over what happens in the Middle East.

“We’re willing to discuss, we’re willing to meet, and the door is open in our direction. I don’t believe it will be difficult to locate us “he stated

Among other Asian countries, Israel has embassies in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and Myanmar.

Under US-brokered agreements, four Arab states – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco – agreed last year to normalize relations with Israel.

  • Reuters