Jakarta – As a matter of fairness, we should say "bravo" to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for his courage and statesmanship in frankly telling his host, United States President Joe Biden, to do more to stop "atrocities" in Gaza, Palestine.
Both Biden and Jokowi clearly intend to push for a cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hamas that has left thousands, mostly civilians, dead.
Jokowi spoke to Biden on behalf of Indonesia, ASEAN, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Islamic world put its faith in Indonesia.
"Indonesia appeals to the US to do more to stop the atrocities in Gaza. A cease-fire is a must for the sake of humanity," Jokowi said at the Oval Office.
Jokowi's message to the US President was crystal clear. The same concern is shared by many nations across the globe who have watched the atrocities committed by Israel as an apparent retaliation to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, who killed more than 1,000 Israelis and abducted hundreds of others. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that Jokowi was speaking on behalf of the entire world, which longs for peace in the Middle East.
The US administration has in fact called for a cease-fire for humanitarian reasons, but Israel strongly rejected the idea.
As the messenger of the Islamic world, President Jokowi has strong international credibility as the leader of the world's most populous and mostly moderate Muslim nation, and the world's third-largest democracy after India and the US.
Jokowi impressed the world because of his strong leadership when taking the helm of the Group of 20 last year, especially when he insisted on inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to the organization's summit in Bali in November 2022. The West considers Putin a common enemy after he invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Other G20 leaders, including Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron, initially threatened to boycott the G20 summit, but they softened their stances after Jokowi agreed to also invite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Putin delegated his foreign minister to the summit while Zelensky participated through a video conference.
From his body language during his meeting with Jokowi, Biden demonstrated a personal relationship with his Indonesian guest. Biden also displayed his confidence in the Indonesian leader and even told Jokowi that Indonesia could play a more prominent role in ending the crisis in the Middle East.
The peace mission is a difficult undertaking for Jokowi as Indonesia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and clearly takes Palestine's side. Indonesia has vowed to only formalize a diplomatic relationship with Israel after the establishment of an independent Palestine as part of a two-state solution.
Jokowi came to the White House on the invitation of President Biden before attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in San Francisco.
The host did not mention Jokowi's call during their joint press conference following their bilateral summit. But Biden and Jokowi mentioned the Gaza crisis in their written joint statement. Biden considered what his guest told him at the Oval Office.
"The two leaders exchanged views on the ongoing crisis in Gaza. Each President stated their national position. President Widodo also shared the united messages of the Joint Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 11, 2023. The leaders agree that they should work together and with other regional partners for a durable peace through a two-state solution," the two leaders said.
According to Al-Jazeera, the joint Arab-Islamic summit hosted by Saudi Arabia last weekend called for an end to the war in Gaza. It rejected justifying Israel's actions against Palestinians as self-defense. The summit condemned "Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, war crimes and barbaric and inhumane massacres by the occupation government" in its final communique.
Jokowi's mission to bring peace to Gaza is a part of the constitutional mandate. So is Indonesia's persistent support for Palestine's independence. On this front, Jokowi is doing alright.