Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – U-20 World Cup host Indonesia will not prevent Israel from participating in the tournament despite political differences and the fact that both countries have no diplomatic relations, with the government saying on Friday it is up to the world football governing body FIFA to decide on the participation of all teams.
The Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry also said that Israel playing at the U-20 World Cup does not mean Jakarta is changing its pro-Palestine stance.
The news of the Israeli team playing at the U-20 World Cup, of which Indonesia is hosting, has sparked public debate over whether Indonesia is opening up to Israel.
According to Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah, Indonesia also does not have a say in deciding the rules and the qualified teams at the championship that is slated to kick off in May, as it is up to the world football governing body FIFA.
"Our stance on Palestine has always been, and will always remain consistent. It is FIFA that decides on the participation of all teams and the rules of the game at the U-20. Despite Indonesia's position as the U-20 host, our country's consistent stance on Palestine will not waver, not even a little," Teuku told a press briefing in Jakarta on Friday.
Teuku said that Indonesia had always been vocal about its pro-Palestine stance in every international forum.
"During his visit to Indonesia last October, Palestinian Prime Minister [Mohammad Shtayyeh] expressed his utmost gratitude for Indonesia's unwavering support," Teuku said.
At the recent 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi told the forum that "we cannot close our eyes to the sufferings of the Palestinians."
Retno earlier also said that no other country raised the Palestine issue at the said session.
Chief legal affairs minister Mohammad Mahfud MD recently commented on Israel's participation at the U-20. He said that the government had already anticipated the conflicting opinions over Israel competing at the sports event.
"We have discussed it and prepared every track. The political, diplomatic, and security aspects of this have all been discussed. Just wait for it to be negotiated," Mahfud said in Yogyakarta on Wednesday, as quoted by news outlet CNN Indonesia.
Mahfud also added that the preparations for the U-20 championship had gone well.
Dozens of Muslims that are part of a group called the Great Solo Alliance (Aliansi Solo Raya) recently staged a demonstration in front of the city's Legislative Council to oppose Israel's participation in the sports event. Early this week, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) also urged the government to take a firm stance against Israel.