According to a report by the Jerusalem Post, Mr Netanyahu announced his plans to visit Singapore and three other countries – Australia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan – at a cabinet meeting on Sunday (Oct 30).
Mr Netanyahu’s planned trip, will make him the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Singapore and is done to reciprocate Mr Lee’s visit in April.
Topics surrounding Palestine and the Middle-East conflict inevitably surfaced. Our position as a tiny state which is surrounded by larger predominantly Muslim countries were challenged.
It was an easy point for the Malay Muslim opposition members to point out.
We do not blame them. Conflicts in the Middle East may be far away, but they resonate with many in South-east Asia, including Singaporeans.
BUT We need to be discerning. There is a risk of Singaporeans, especially the Muslim community, being drawn into the narrative of sectarian strife, given the geopolitical complexities involved.
While some conflicts are historical and longstanding, others are driven by current regional political rivalries.
In response to MPs’ questions during the debate on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) budget, this year, Minister of State for Defence, Maliki Osman said that Singaporeans have always displayed tolerance for all religions and should continue to do so… We should be careful not to be drawn into these conflicts that are exploiting religion for political ends,”
DON’T GET CAUGHT UP
The conflicts in the Middle East have their roots going back thousands of years. They are ethnic and pseudo-religious sectarian conflicts superimposed with regional rivalry.
It is important that Singaporeans do not get caught up in these conflicts, which really have nothing to do with us, and in fact have nothing to do with religion. Religion has just been used, abused as a vehicle to further political ends.
– FOREIGN MINISTER VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, on Middle East conflicts and how they might resonate with Singaporeans (2016)
Israeli President Chaim Herzog was the first Israeli head of state to visit Singapore ; (18 to 20 November 1986) at the invitation of then President Wee Kim Wee.
When Herzog’s trip to Singapore was first announced by the Israeli Embassy in Singapore in October 1986, it was met with protests from various political groups in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and displeasure from their governments.
They urged Singapore to be sensitive to the feelings of its Muslim neighbours and to call off Herzog’s visit by taking into account the prevailing sympathy of Muslims in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei towards the Palestinians’s struggle against the Israeli government.
There was nothing religious about these protest. This was at the back of the Lebanon War which was the height of the Palestine-Israel conflict.
Today, the Lebanon war has long ended, but the situation remains just as ‘dangerous’ as individuals continue to play up such sentiments
We have too many in the region who have no qualms stirring the racial / religious pot to further their political ambitions.
The fact of the matter is that Singapore has always supported the Palestine State and strongly urged for a ‘two-state solution” in the Middle East Peace Process. Just as much as it was no secret that much of our military were from the Israel Defence Forces during our formative years.
Singapore argues for peace in the region.
Individuals can hijack the Israel visit and spin all the vitriol all they want but they cannot deny that over the years, just as much as Israel has helped us shaped our military to what it is today, Singapore has also helped the Palestinians to help rebuild their lives, develop their economy and train their officials in various courses such as education, economic development and anti-corruption. We have also voted for several Palestinian-related resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly and a number of Singapore leaders have also visited Ramallah in the West Bank. (Source)
Why then do we need to oppose a PM of another country who is here on a reciprocal visit when we have no wars with them? Isn’t the visit an exercise of good diplomatic relations to position Singapore better in the world? Since when have following what our neighbour wants do us any good?
Yes we do exercise sensitivity in the region, but not blindly. Singaporeans and Singapore’s interest must be first.