TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Nahdlatul Ulama Secretary-General Yahya Cholil Staquf`s presence at the American Jewish Committee conference for Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, last June, should not have been criticized. What Yahya did was something President Abdurrahman Wahid initiated years ago: offering a different approach to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Yahya's position as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council is also not something to be held against him. He had been invited to speak at the conference long before he was told he would be serving as President Joko Widodos advisor. It was obvious that his attendance is not a reflection of Indonesia's foreign policies.
Moreover, the institution that invited Yahya is a non-governmental organization, which does not necessarily represent the Israeli government. The American Jewish Committee has been encouraging interreligious dialogue for a long time. And historically, the committee's political position has not always been aligned with Zionist ideas.
It is unfortunate that in Indonesia controversy raged over Yahya's presence at the conference, overshadowing his message to the Israeli public. To the predominantly Jewish audience, Yahya asked them to explore a philosophy of love as a way to fairly resolve the conflict. He encouraged the audience to practice the word of God, And We have not sent you, except as a mercy for the worlds.
To emphasize Yahya's message of peace, the Indonesian foreign affairs ministry should more actively encourage efforts to revive peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel through formal diplomacy. It's time for the government to realize that our support for Palestine does not have to translate into the blind rejection of everything Israeli.
Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi should take notes from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who are quietly seeking to open diplomatic ties with Israel. By establishing communication between Istanbul and Tel Aviv, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's protest to Israeli capitals move to Jerusalem would certainly be heard more.
Saudis policies are similar to Turkeys. At the beginning of this year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman allowed an Air India airliner flying to the Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv to pass through Saudis airspace. This concession would have a positive impact on Saudis request for Israel not to open its embassy in Riyadh before there is peace in Palestine.
Through his presence in Jerusalem, Yahya Staquf reminds us that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can only be resolved if all parties are willing to engage in dialogue based on the values of humanity and compassion. His noble call is something that we all should embrace.