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International Relations

Thousands in Jakarta protest US embassy's move to Jerusalem

President Widodo urges other countries not to follow Washington's lead

Thousands of Muslims gather at the National Monument in Jakarta on Friday to protest against the US moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem. (Photo by Bobby Nugroho)

JAKARTA -- Tens of thousands of Muslims gathered in Jakarta on Friday to protest against the United States' controversial plan to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is set to happen on Monday.

Protesters from Jakarta and surrounding cities condemned Washington's move, calling on Muslims to increase their support for Palestine and boycott products from companies that support Israel. One speaker called for jihad, or holy war, against Israelis.

"We, Muslim youths of Indonesia, are ready to fight the tyranny of Israel, America and their allies," the speaker said. "We...are ready to wage jihad with our treasures, knowledge, soul and our blood."

Local police estimated that more than 30,000 people attended the joint prayer and peaceful rally at the National Monument in central Jakarta. Participants had originally intended to march outside the nearby U.S. embassy, but altered their plan after police prohibited them from approaching the heavily-guarded complex.

The move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem coincides with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country, and follows U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement in December of his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Trump's decision defies decades of policy adopted by his predecessors that committed to a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine and refrained from opening an embassy in Jerusalem -- due to its contested status between Israelis and Palestinians. Both claim the city -- which contains holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians -- as their ancient capital.

Indonesian Muslims on Friday join a protest in Jakarta against the United States' plan to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Photo by Bobby Nugroho)

Trump's decision has triggered international condemnation, including in the Muslim world, as it is seen as harming the already fraught peace process between Israel and Palestine. Washington has proceeded with the embassy move in spite of an overwhelming vote at the United Nations' General Assembly in December against Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Violence has intensified in Gaza, the densely-populated strip of Palestinian territory that is mostly surrounded by Israel, in recent weeks -- with a big rally in late March resulting in the death of 18 Palestinians, with dozens more injured by Israeli troops.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Friday reiterated Jakarta's support for Palestine, and urged the UN to take further measures to prevent tensions from further escalating.

A Muslim youth holds a placard during a rally in Jakarta on May 11 in support of Palestinians and against the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem.   © Reuters

Widodo has repeatedly mentioned on previous occasions that Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population, will continue to campaign for the independence of Palestine under the two-state solution. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been one of the most contentious issues in the Middle East and in the wider Muslim world.

"Indonesia rejects [the U.S.] decision because it may disrupt the peace process in Israel and Palestine. We call on other countries against following in the [footsteps of the] U.S.," Widodo said during a meeting on Friday between Muslim clerics from Indonesia, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the Bogor Palace, a presidential estate outside Jakarta.

"Palestine remains a priority in Indonesia's current international diplomacy. The people of Indonesia will fight together with the people of Palestine, which is in every diplomacy breath that we take," he added.

The president has asked other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as other parties including China, to support Palestine.

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