The Israel-Palestine conflict continues to draw global attention with the recurrence of warfare. Hamas’ massive assault on Israel on October 7, 2023, known as Operation Storm of Al-Aqsa, resulted in numerous civilian casualties.
The international community called for a ceasefire to end and prevent further casualties. Demonstrations erupted in various major cities in both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian countries. Additionally, social media users consistently demanded a ceasefire between the conflicting parties to prevent more casualties, especially among women and children.
After 37 days of conflict, as of November 12, 2023, there were reported 11,078 Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip, with an additional 172 casualties in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the death toll among Israelis reached approximately 1,247 individuals. On the other hand, around 27,490 Palestinians sustained injuries in the Gaza Strip, 2,586 were injured in the West Bank, and about 5,400 Israelis were injured.
In response to various calls, the United Nations (UN), a key player in the resolution of such conflicts, issued the Civilian Protection resolution, emphasizing legal and humanitarian obligations on October 27, 2023.
In a session attended by 179 representatives of the total 193 UN member states, 120 countries supported the resolution, 14 countries opposed it, and 45 countries abstained from voting. In Southeast Asia, almost all countries supported the UN resolution, except the Philippines, which chose to abstain.
The decisions of Southeast Asian member states regarding their stance on the UN resolution related to the Israel-Palestine conflict clearly demonstrate their positions. The views and positions of each Southeast Asian member state on the Israel-Palestine conflict vary, depending on the level of relations they have with both countries.
How do Southeast Asian countries’ connections with Israel and Palestine influence their reactions to the Israel-Palestine conflict?
Southeast Asian countries have taken an official stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Political and diplomatic factors, such as bilateral relations with Israel or Palestine, can play a key role in determining a country’s position on the conflict.
Some countries choose to remain neutral to maintain diplomatic relations, while others take concrete steps to express support or condemnation. Broadly speaking, these member countries can be categorized into three blocks: those supporting Palestine, those supporting Israel, and those remaining neutral.
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei Darussalam openly express solidarity with Palestine in the Israel-Palestine conflict. They voice strong support for Palestinian rights and condemn Israeli actions deemed to violate human rights. Until now, these majority Muslim countries have not established formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
These countries provide assistance to Palestine, with Malaysia providing humanitarian aid worth IDR 331.8 billion. Similarly, Indonesia gradually sends aid such as food, medical supplies, blankets, tents, and other necessary logistics to the Palestinian community in Gaza.
On the other hand, the Philippines and Singapore have good relations with Israel. Several countries recognized Israel after its declaration of independence on May 14, 1948, and the Philippines is among the nations that recognized Israel in 1948 after its proclamation.
Both the Philippines and Israel have economic and military cooperation. Therefore, the Philippines tends to show support for Israel and chose to abstain from voting on the resolution last October. The Philippines strongly condemns attacks by Palestinian groups and expresses condolences for the deaths of Israelis. The Philippines even interprets Israel’s actions as a form of self-defense against external aggression.
In line with the Philippines, Singapore also has economic and defense cooperation with Israel. Since 1969, Singapore and Israel have had diplomatic relations and opened embassies in their respective countries.
Singapore also established diplomatic relations with Palestine in 1989, and since then, diplomatic relations between the two countries have continued to develop. Singapore opened its embassy in Palestine in 2015, demonstrating Singapore’s commitment to strengthening diplomatic relations with Palestine.
In the Israel-Palestine conflict, Singapore has condemned Hamas’ attacks on Israel. Singapore urges all parties to stop the conflict to protect the safety and security of civilians. Basically, Singapore views its relationship with both Israel and Palestine as part of a foreign policy based on national and economic interests.
Meanwhile, other Southeast Asian countries strive to remain neutral and refrain from making explicit statements in favor of either party. Countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia take a more closed approach.
Some countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand, do have embassies in Israel and tend to remain neutral in this conflict. This neutral stance is not always political but can vary from country to country. For example, Thailand has a consistent foreign policy supporting a two-state solution in the Middle East.
From the varied responses in each country, it can be seen that the Israel-Palestine conflict not only affects the balance of power in the Middle East but also has complex impacts on the dynamics in the Southeast Asian region. Despite being geographically separated, several factors, including religious solidarity, social media influence, and global geopolitical roles, make the conflict permeate into the lives and policies of Southeast Asia.