April 26, 2018

The Bilateral Secret of the East Unraveled – Israel and Singapore

Israel's PM Netanyahu has commenced his first visit to Singapore, and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to declare of close, warm bilateral relations between the two states. Israel's Foreign Policy for the current year is to promote relations with the Asian field, and so an introduction to one of Israel's now-public allies is in order.

A long-lasting, secret alliance in the fields of security is revealed - PM Netanyahu (left) and PM Hsien (right).

In the last few days we are witnessing what might as well be a bilaterally historic event between two states – Israel and Singapore. A major visit of Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the first ever Israeli Prime Minister to visit Singapore, has been widely covered and supported by Israeli Media and even Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

What was previously a sensitive, closely-guarded topic, usually hidden from the public eye, has transcended into the media and became officially recognized.

So, what preceded such an important development?

Foreword on Israel-Singapore Relations

Israel and Singapore have both established diplomatic relations in the year 1969, although there are records of security relations even back in 1968. Israel has an embassy in Singapore. Singapore is represented in Israel by a non-resident ambassador based in Singapore (in the Foreign Ministry) and through an honorary consulate in Tel-Aviv.

The relations between the two states was mutually imbued in the militaristic-security levels, due to geographic factors. Singapore is located in a Muslim-dominant region, as such it was highly preferable to keep the cooperation between it and Israel beneath the surface.

In 1965, post its independence, the security situation of Singapore was in-doubt. As other countries rejected its request for assistance, the State of Israel willingly offered its expertise, providing assistance in the establishment of the Singapore Armed Forces in the late 1960s.

Singapore views Israel, which is also located in the heart of the Islamic region, as a vivid example to learn from in various, sensitive and enriching militaristic fields. The benefits for the State of Israel are also widely recognized, being able to establish bridges with the East and commence knowledge-exchange to support its legitimization and experience.

Economic Relations as a Side-Dish

In 1990 the Israel-Singapore Chamber of Commerce was established as a part of the IACC (Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce) with the sole purpose to encourage, support and facilitate trade and business relations between the two states.

The Establishment was moderately followed by a pact signed between the two states in 2005 to ease the flow of goods and investments. By the year 2013, trade between the two states was already totaled 1.956 billion dollars.

Specifically speaking – Singapore is a net importer from Israel with a primary focus on exporting machinery and computer equipment to Israel. Israel, on the other hand, mostly exports electrical utility equipment from Singapore.

Where we are today

In April 2016, PM Lee Hsien payed a warm visit as the official guest of PM Netanyahu. He was very willing and obliged to publicly admission the military ties between Israel and Singapore to the press and the public.

In the year 2017, the State of Israel has marked it a necessity to promote relations with Singapore in all fields. Singapore, on the other hand, happily encourages and supports the progress in cooperation.

Today, PM Netanyahu visited Singapore for the first time. His visit was backed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the establishment of formal ties between the two states.

In Singapore – he was welcomed by PM Lee Hsien and a very appealing Honor Guard. The two PMs hosted a meeting in front of the press. This time, however, the Singaporeans wish to keep the visit low-profile, as to avoid any unnecessary confrontation with Singapore’s Islamic neighbors – Malasiya and Indonesia.

The Israeli side is very focused on promoting cooperation, and wishes to “open new markets” between the two states.

The following year is sure to meet its share of changes, which are bound to shape the 21st Century. With the warm and committed approaches of both the Israeli and the Singaporean side, we are destined to see some heavy progress now that the diplomatic and security relations have been publicized.

Guy Golan
About Guy Golan 23 Articles
Guy partnered with David in the establishment of IsraeliDiplomacy and holds the position of Executive Director. He has written many articles regarding Israel's relations with Foreign Countries. An experienced analyst in International Affairs, Guy has years of knowledge from his military service in the prestigious International Cooperation Division of the IDF.

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