CAIRO - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has sent shockwaves across the Muslim-majority country by expressing support for the existence of Israel, The New Straits Times reported Tuesday, February 7.
"I think this statement is very reckless and excessive, said Hery Sucipto, director of the Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic World (PKTTDI).
Anwar's support can hurt and ignores the aspirations of the Muslim world, at a time when there are international calls and support for the struggle of the Palestinians from Israeli occupation.
Anwar said in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal that he would support efforts to protect the security of the state of Israel.
Some refuse to recognize the state of Israel, the veteran opposition leader said.
But I think our policy should be clear - protect the security [of Israel] but you must be as firm in protecting the legitimate interests of the Palestinians.
Anwar, however, stopped short of saying whether he would establish diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Israel.
Malaysia, along with Indonesia and Brunei, don't have diplomatic relations with Israel.
US-sponsored peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel have collapsed over Israel's refusal to halt settlement building in the occupied lands.
Hery believes that the remarks are an attempt by the Malaysian opposition leader to gain the sympathy of the United States and the West.
Seeking to calm the storm, Anwar said that he supported a two-state solution.
I am issuing a stern warning to anyone trying to twist my statement just so that they can say that I have betrayed the aspirations of the Palestinian people, he said in a statement to the press.
He said that his party's stand is to defend the rights of whoever it is that has been victimized.
The remarks are expected to hurt Anwar's chances in the country's next general elections.
Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to call the election by June while economic growth remains relatively strong, well before his mandate ends in March 2013.
Malaysian politicians accused Anwar of abandoning the Palestinian cause.
[Anwar's comments] show a blanket support for anything Israel does, said Khairy Jamaluddin, the chief of the youth wing of the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), reported the Wall Street Journal.
The issue of Palestine is a top foreign policy priority for my party, it would be an issue during the election year or otherwiseâ¦ timing doesn't matter.
Former premier Mahathir Mohamed said he was not surprised by Anwar's statements.
He (Anwar) has sympathy for the Jews and has many friends in the United States' Congress and Senate that are of Jewish origin, he told reporters after giving a lecture at the Putrajaya International Convention Center.
The former premier accused Anwar of seeking to the country's helm of power at any cost.
He will say anything to take over Putrajaya, he said.
Mahathir also said that Anwar only focused on Israel's safety in the first part of the interview.
Suddenly, after much criticism, he now claims that he supports the two-state solution, he said.
He never mentioned anything about the safety of the Palestinian people who were the real victims.Muslim Malays form about 60 percent of Malaysia's 26-million population, while Christians make up around 9.1 percent.