Three cognate countries are a term that is often used to name Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. All of them have Malay roots, speak Malay and have large followers of Islam in the Southeast Asian region. Recently, news has circulated that the three countries, which are known to always support Palestine and oppose Israel, actually attracted the attention of Israeli Ambassador to Singapore, Sagi Karni. On Thursday (17/6), he said that he wants to build relations with Muslim-majority countries in Southeast Asia.
In fact, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam are consistent supporters of Palestine and condemned the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza last May. Ambassador Sagi Karni said the criticism from the leaders of the three countries was "dishonest" and ignored "the true nature of the conflict." He also remarked that the conflict was between Israel and Hamas, not the Palestinian people.
The three countries to date have absolutely no diplomatic relations with Israel. They are also the loudest in asking for United Nations intervention to stop Israel's attacks last May.
There is a reason why Israel, through its Ambassador in Singapore, dared to hope to approach the three ASEAN countries to explain its version of the background to the attacks on Palestinians last May. At the end of 2020, four Islamic countries in the Middle East; Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco agreed to normalize relations with Israel.
So far, Indonesia does not want to have bilateral relations with Israel because of its solidarity with Palestine. Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi in her statement said that Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and will keep supporting Palestine to fight for and gain independence and its rights as a sovereign state. Meanwhile, Malaysia, since its independence in 1957, has refused diplomatic relations with Israel. As a Muslim-majority country, Malaysia has a desire to foster solidarity with Arab countries in opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Israel's desire to get close to major Muslim countries in Southeast Asia must of course be based on a basic principle, namely, the recognition of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state in addition to respecting for universally applicable human rights enforcement.