The strong relationship between Israel and Singapore was initially built on Israel’s military support for the nation when its new independence was under threat in 1965, the prime minister of Singapore revealed during his visit to Yerushalayim on Tuesday, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“We have a long and deep relationship between Singapore and Israel,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said before meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “But really, it all started with a defense relationship. 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.”
The other countries referred to but not named were Egypt and India.
Bilateral ties today comprise some $1.35 billion in defense and trade, plus major Israeli investments in Singapore, and extensive academic and cultural ties. The military dimension continues to be strong, and Singapore widely thought to be one of Israel’s leading arms customers.
Although Lee had been in Israel in 1977 as a young army officer, this was his first time back since then. Singapore has had to keep a low profile vis-à-vis Israel due to its predominantly Muslim neighbors, Indonesia and Malaysia.
In 1986, Singapore’s relationship with Malaysia was adversely affected after then President Chaim Herzog visited there for three days. Today, it seems, Singapore is less concerned about offending its neighbors.
Netanyahu hailed Lee’s visit as “historic,” and said that it “reflects a coming-of-age” in the relations between the two countries.
“There is a deep friendship between Israel and Singapore,” Netanyahu said. “ We have so much in common. We are small nations that leave a very large imprint on the world scene.”