Medan, Indonesia – Indonesian President Joko Widodo is in the United States this week for a summit with President Joe Biden at the White House, then to attend the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, in the middle of war between Israel and Gaza. .

The visit sparked questions about whether Widodo, better known as Jokowi, would call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The question is all the more burning since the Indonesian hospital, located in the north of Gaza, was surrounded by Israeli forces.

The hospital was built in 2011 with donations from Indonesian citizens and organizations, including the Indonesian Red Cross Society and the Muhammadiyah Society, one of the largest Muslim organizations in Indonesia. It was officially opened in 2016 by then Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

Three Indonesian volunteers from the Indonesian humanitarian organization Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C), which organized the donations for the construction of the hospital, are currently based in northern Gaza.

However, despite the grim situation in the besieged enclave, experts told Al Jazeera that Widodo would likely use his visit to the White House to discuss a wide range of issues.

“He is likely to discuss several issues related to investment and trade, especially related to the relocation of capital and critical minerals such as nickel, downstream and production of electric vehicles in Indonesia,” said Ahmad Rizky M Umar, associate lecturer at the Institute. University of Queensland.

Joko Widodo examines aid intended for Gaza at the airport.  The aid is on pallets and ready to be put on the plane.  Widodo is accompanied by his Minister of Foreign Affairs
Indonesia sent humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza earlier this month (Bay Ismoyo/AFP)

Trade and investment

As the outgoing president whose second and final term ends next year, Widodo will likely be keen to preserve his legacy and consolidate ongoing projects already underway, such as the proposed relocation of 1.5 million of the 11 million residents of Jakarta. in East Kalimantan as part of the new capital project estimated at some $32 billion.

Umar added that Widodo would also likely discuss Indonesia’s membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which could make it more attractive to investors given the organization’s commitment to best practices as Southeast Asia’s largest economy seeks to attract more U.S. investors. entrepreneurs.

“He will also likely discuss elevating bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and the United States to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership,'” Umar said.

According to the White House, the theme of this year’s APEC is “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All” with the aim of building “an interconnected, innovative and inclusive region” and promoting “a free, fair and open that benefits American workers, businesses, and families.”

APEC was established in 1989 and has 21 members, including Indonesia, Australia, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the United States and Vietnam, worth nearly $3 billion. inhabitants and contributing 62 percent to global gross domestic product (GDP), while controlling almost half of global trade.

Indonesia itself is also a major emerging economy that some believe could rank among the world’s top five economies by mid-century.

Yohanes Sulaiman, a professor of international relations at Jenderal Achmad Yani University in Bandung, told Al Jazeera that even if Widodo could mention Palestine, it would not be the main topic of conversation.

The United States has supported Israel since Hamas launched a wave of surprise attacks on October 7, killing at least 1,200 people and capturing at least 200 others.

After the assault, Israel declared war on Hamas and subjected Gaza, home to some 2.3 million people, to relentless bombardment.

More than 11,000 people were killed.

“I think his focus will be on the economy and broader Indonesia-US relations. He’s not the kind of leader who gets on his soapbox with America. He will want to ensure that relations with the United States go smoothly,” he said.

“He will focus on what Indonesia can gain from his visit and not spend too much time on other issues. This will be a transactional meeting.

An open letter to Widodo

However, even if Widodo wants to focus on economic issues, the thorny Indonesian hospital issue will likely be difficult to ignore.

“I suspect he will talk about Palestine, particularly humanitarian aid and a cease-fire, because Israel itself has accused the Indonesian hospital of being a Hamas hideout,” said Umar, a professor at the University of Queensland.

Last week, Israel accused the Indonesian hospital of housing Hamas fighters in tunnels beneath the building.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry rejected the allegations, saying the Indonesian hospital must serve Palestinians “fully.”

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country, with 207 million of its 270 million people following Islam. The country does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Israel and there is no Israeli embassy in Indonesia.

Indonesian citizens and the government have long been seen as sympathetic to the Palestinian cause – hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets of Jakarta in recent weeks to call for a ceasefire – but there have been attempts periodic meetings to thaw relations with Israel, particularly under the old regime. President Abdurrahman Wahid.

On November 11, the MER-C sent an open letter to Widodo, calling on him to use his visit to the White House to “save the Indonesian hospital.”

“Today marks the 36th day that the world has witnessed indiscriminate attacks, killings and massacres of civilians in the Gaza Strip, the majority of whom are women and children (…) all hospitals in the Strip Gaza have been victims of the brutality of the Israeli army,” the letter said.

He added that the Indonesian hospital was trying to operate in complete darkness and with a shortage of medicines.

The MER-C added that it hoped Widodo would raise the hospital issue during his meeting with Biden and “put pressure on the world, especially the United States, to immediately establish a cease-fire.” fire in the Gaza Strip and saves the Indonesian hospital from the threat. Israeli attacks.”

“Will the world and our Indonesian nation continue to remain silent in the face of this? the letter said.

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