burning israeli flag 298.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel would like a dialogue with Indonesia and Malaysia in order to work together on problems in the Middle East, the Israeli ambassador to Singapore said Friday.
The two Southeast Asian countries with predominantly Muslim populations so far have refused to consider diplomatic relations with Israel, a stance that Ambassador Ilan Ben-Dov called "absurd."
Ben-Dov spoke to The Associated Press a day after a meeting of Muslim leaders in Malaysia condemned "Israeli aggression" in Lebanon. During the three-week conflict in the Middle East, anti-Israel protests have broken out in Malaysia and Indonesia, with some demonstrators volunteering to go fight the Jewish state.
Ben-Dov said Israel wants to be able to address a "culture of hatred" against his country in Malaysia and Indonesia, and to explain Israel's position on the conflict with Hizbullah in Lebanon.
"If you don't listen at least to both sides, that creates even more hatred. We don't expect them to agree, but at least give the opportunity to listen to the other half of this conflict," he said.
He said it was difficult for Israel to even speak to the media in the two countries.
Last week, the ambassador wrote to the Jakarta Post to complain about what he called an "unbalanced" editorial against Israel's actions in Lebanon. He said in the letter, published by the newspaper, that its approach "can only ignite more hatred and more prejudice against the state of Israel."
Indonesia, as the world's most populous Muslim nation, could play a constructive role in the Middle East, the ambassador said.
"They always speak about the will to support the Palestinians. We look at that as a very positive will. But what they are doing until now is only speaking about it but not doing something," Ben-Dov said. "If they want to be constructive and effective, they should talk to both sides, as other Muslim countries are doing. ... One cannot have influence there by being one-sided."
Ben-Dov has served for one year as ambassador in Singapore, a tiny city-state sandwiched between the two nations. He said he has actively pursued ways of beginning a dialogue with the countries but so far has had little success.
Indonesia has refused diplomatic ties with Israel and insists the Jewish state recognize Palestine as an independent state. Malaysia has said it would not consider establishing diplomatic relations with Israel until it changes its policies toward the Palestinians.