Will the OIC Call for an End to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

As the death toll increases in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Indonesia and other Muslim countries are demanding an immediate cease-fire. On Sunday (16/5), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) hosted a virtual international ministerial conference to discuss Israel’s violence.

Indonesia, represented at the meeting by Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi, reaffirmed its unequivocal support for Palestine. Three major initiatives for the OIC have been proposed by Indonesia. And the unity of the OIC is the first step in resolving the conflict. “Without unity, OIC will be unable to drive international support for Palestine,” Retno said in a press statement on Sunday.

“[The second key step is for] every OIC country to use their respective influence to encourage an immediate ceasefire. All violence must be put to a halt,” the diplomat added.

Last but not least, OIC must remain focused on achieving Palestinian independence.  “OIC must work harder to push for the resumption of a credible multilateral negotiation, which refers to internationally agreed parameters, in order to achieve a lasting peace based on two-state solution principles,” Retno said.

The meeting of foreign ministers resulted in a resolution condemning Israel’s “barbaric attacks” against Palestinians. The OIC also urged the UN Security Council to move quickly to address the matter. “Failure of the Security Council to assume its duty to deal with this situation would necessitate approaching the United Nations General Assembly to assume its responsibility,” the OIC says in the resolution.The question is, can the OIC overcome this big issue?

First, Realists argue that its members lack a common vision and that all of them polarize foreign interests. Iran and Saudi Arabia are prime examples of how difficult it is to reach an agreement. Iran and Saudi Arabia are both attempting to create and disseminate propaganda that expresses their respective political and ideological interests in opposition to one another. Saudi propaganda seeks to uphold the status quo, that is, to preserve Saudi Arabia’s hold over Muslim world leadership, including the OIC.

If the Saudi–Iranian conflict is a strategic one, both countries use sectarianism to further their policy objectives. As a consequence, the OIC will suffer. The OIC is adrift and too dependent on Saudi Arabia.

The OIC has made no attempt to climb above the agenda of its most dominant member state. As a result, it has followed much of the ethnic biases of Saudi foreign policy. As a result, Saudi Arabia has been able to project its national goals. Despite the fact that the Saudis have always tried to use the OIC to advance their agenda, especially since the 1980s, this trend has accelerated dramatically in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

In order to defeat Iran, the Middle East’s post-Arab Spring diplomatic transition has pushed the Kingdom to maintain overt dominance of the OIC. This procedure has severely harmed the organization’s image as a neutral actor, as well as the concept of global Muslim unity.

Second, because of the various faiths, different aspirations for the region, and each state’s determination to lead to ummah. There has never been any reason or inspiration for Europeans like the one that arose in the aftermath of WWII. A supranational organization based on the functionalist paradigm is needed. Either the fossil-fuel or labor-intensive economies have a similar competitive advantage. In the 1970s, the OIC exercised control, but due to monarchies’ dependence on these powers, they favored benignty.

Different views are one aspect, but so is the emergence of nation states. Various Islamic countries have formed alliances with more powerful nations. For example, the oil-rich Middle Eastern countries have ties with the United States, Iran has relations with Russia, and Pakistan has relations with China. As a result, many Islamic countries have been very dependent on them for things like weapons and infrastructure building, among other things.

This weakens cohesion ever more. For example (hypothetically), if some countries say at an OIC meeting that they want to join and support Azerbaijan, an Islamic nation, against Armenia, and we assume the US is supporting Armenia, then all Middle Eastern oil countries will automatically decline because they are allies with the US and don’t want to strain the alliance with a more powerful government. As a consequence, there is a lot of geopolitics at risk because each nation prioritizes its own vested interests first, exacerbating the discord.

The root cause is that they put such a high emphasis on trust. And they both (Saudi & Iran) have opposing views on Islam. It’s reminiscent of Europe 500 years ago, when Christianity was already a central aspect of governments and people fought for theological differences. To become more cooperative, Islamic countries must take the same path that led to the separation of mosque and state.

In an ironic twist, Israel could be yet another unifying force. Several countries have greeted Israel with open arms and are working to normalize relations. This will also normalize their whole diplomatic outlook, as they will now downplay the importance of trust when bargaining with Israel.

Governments in OIC member states must recognize that they have obligations to one another and are dealing with a variety of problems in general. The OIC has a strong chance of consolidating peace and fostering economic growth in its member countries by strengthening security coordination, including resolving the Israeli–Palestinian dispute.

Raihan Ronodipuro
Raihan Ronodipuro
Raihan Ronodipuro holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the prestigious School of Public Policy & Management at Tsinghua University, China. His academic journey was propelled by the esteemed Chinese MOFCOM Scholarship, leading him to successfully attain a Master of Law in International Relations from the School of International and Public Affairs at Jilin University, China. With a rich background, Raihan has also contributed as an Associate Researcher in the Department of Politics and Security at the Center for Indonesia-China Studies (CICS). Currently, he plays a pivotal role as a member of the International Relations Commission within the Directorate of Research and Studies for the Overseas Indonesian Students' Association Alliance (OISAA) for the term 2022/2023.