Singapore’s prime minister makes historic visit to Israel

Making the first visit to Israel by a prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu discussed increasing bilateral cooperation in several areas.

The two prime ministers met privately on Tuesday morning in Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office and then held an expanded meeting with other government ministers. The meetings focused on increasing cooperation on security and trade, among other economic matters, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Singapore and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1969, several years after Singapore’s founding.

“We have built dynamic, prosperous economies, despite our small size and our limited natural resources,” Netanyahu said in welcoming Loong. “The economic success of Singapore, I think, inspires the entire world. The transformation of Israel to a technological powerhouse on the global scene, I think, evokes a similar admiration. Innovation and entrepreneurship have allowed us both to punch well above our weight.

“We both understand that strong economies with a very powerful incentive for enterprise are the foundations of strong countries, and our cooperation with each other has made each of us even stronger.”

Loong responded by saying that many firms in Singapore are interested in doing business with and investing in Israel, noting that some have already done so.

“Our universities and research sectors have also strong collaborations, and there are many exchanges between our institutes. But really it all started with a defense relationship,” he said. “We are very grateful to Israel that when independence was thrust upon us in August 1965, and when Singapore’s security and survival were in doubt, you helped us, the IDF helped us to build up the Singapore Armed Forces when other countries turned us down.”

Loong invited Netanyahu to make an official visit to Singapore.

On Monday, Israel and Singapore signed a memorandum of understanding authorizing cooperation between the two countries, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

China offers to broker Abbas-Netanyahu meeting

China offered to broker a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will both be in Beijing next week on separate visits.

“If the leaders of Palestine and Israel have the will to meet in China, China is willing to offer necessary assistance,” Hua Chunying, the spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying Friday by Xinhua news agency.

The United States is pressing the sides to revive peace talks and has asked the international community to facilitate such a meeting.

Abbas has made a settlement freeze a precondition for talks, a condition Netanyahu rejects.

The party-run People's Daily noted that Netanyahu's visit marked the first time an Israeli prime minister chose China as his first foreign post-election trip. Netanyahu was re-elected prime minister in elections in January.