Photo by Haim Zah, GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in Israel on an official visit at the head of an approximately 60-person delegation. He is accompanied by – inter alia – Foreign Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli Bin Masagos Mohamad.
After the welcoming ceremony, the two prime ministers met privately and then held an expanded meeting in which National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz and the ministers accompanying the Singapore Prime Minister also participated. The two leaders discussed increasing bilateral cooperation in – inter alia – cyber, security, economic matters and increasing trade.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to make an official visit to Singapore.
This is the first ever visit to Israel by a Prime Minister of Singapore since Singapore was founded 51 years ago and since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1969.
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
"Prime Minister Lee, it’s my pleasure to welcome you and your entire delegation to Jerusalem – and your wife.
This is truly a historic occasion. I’m honored to be the first Israeli prime minister to welcome a prime minister of Singapore to our country. I think your arrival here reflects a coming-of-age of the relations between our two countries. There is a deep friendship between Israel and Singapore. We have so much in common. We are small nations that leave a very large imprint on the world scene.
We have built dynamic, prosperous economies, despite our small size and our limited natural resources. 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.
Today we are anchors of stability and strength in our respective regions. And we are working together in many fields, diverse fields, including water management, biotechnology, and we’re going to talk on this visit about intensifying our cooperation in cyber security, and of course in many, many other fields.
We obviously face many common challenges, foremost of which I think is the rampant terrorism that comes from militant and extreme ideologies that threaten us all. I appreciate your swift and unequivocal condemnation of yesterday’s terrorist incident in Israel. We will spare no effort to bring those who committed this act to justice and those who supported them. I speak for all Israelis, and I’m sure for you as well, Prime Minister, when I wish the wounded a speedy and full recovery.
Prime Minister Lee, together we can better overcome our common challenges and seize our shared opportunities. Our countries are hubs of innovation that look forward towards the future. And I believe that the future of the world belongs who those societies who innovate. Added value comes from innovation, from technology. We can never justify the rising personal income of our people unless we continually add value to the products and services that they produce. And therefore innovation and technology are key to seizing the future. We are committed to seize it with you, and we think we can do a great deal in addition to what we were already doing.
This is your first visit to Israel. I hope it’s one of many, and again, I want to welcome you to Jerusalem in the warmest spirit of friendship. Welcome, friend."
Prime Minister Netanyahu added:
"I do want to say that before we leave the podium, how greatly I have admired over the years your late father, who was one of the great statesmen of the 20th century, who laid solid foundations for your country, but also who taught many of us the idea of economic vision and enterprise that was put to test and is now the great success that Singapore is. And I know, sir, that you come from a great tradition, so once again, welcome to Jerusalem."
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong:
"Thank you very much. Prime Minister Netanyahu, distinguished members of the Israeli delegation, ladies and gentlemen, I thank Prime Minister for your very warm welcome and express my deep pleasure at being the first Singapore prime minister to visit Israel.
We have a long and deep relationship between Singapore and Israel. Our business-to-business ties are strong. Israel is the second largest contributor of foreign direct investments in Singapore from the Middle East, and we admire your technical prowess and ecosystem. You have the highest number of scientists, technicians, technologists, engineers per capita in the world. You have the third highest number of patents per capita, and I know that many Singaporean firms are interested in doing business with you, investing in Israel, as some have already done.
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. 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.
It’s been a long time since I visited Israel. The last time was in 1977 as a young army officer accompanying our Chief of General Staff, who’s now our ambassador here. And I’m very delighted to be here again. Yes, General Winston Chu, who has been, who has known Israel for many years. And I’m very happy to be back here again after all these many years to thank you personally and to thank Israel for your help and support over the years, and to see for myself developments in Israel, which we follow closely from a distance: your economic success, your technological progress and also developments in the Middle East, which I am sure we will be exchanging views on later.
We are concerned about security issues. We are concerned about cyber security, which is an area of worry for many governments and societies. Also for terrorism, even the attack yesterday in Jerusalem, but the more fundamental issue which threatens many societies not with overturning civilization, but with raking death and destruction and harm in a way which can do a lot of damage.
We also watch carefully from a distance the Israel-Palestine problem and the Middle East peace process, and the progress or lack of progress on these issues. We are concerned about this situation, as many countries around the world are. We wish Israel well. We are friends with both Israel and Palestine. We hope that you’ll be able to resume negotiations and make progress towards a just and durable solution to a long-standing and complex conflict, and we hope to see a two state solution with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security one day.
We also hope to explore how we can do more together, whether in technology, whether in cyber security, whether in business, whether in people-to-people relationships. I’m very happy that yesterday I was at the Hebrew University and witnessed the signing of agreements between the Hebrew University and our national research foundation, as well as with our two universities in Singapore, to expand our research and development cooperation. And I am sure that as these individual projects and enterprises grow, so too our overall ties between the two countries and peoples will grow closer.
Finally, as you gather with your families for the Passover, I’d like to wish everyone a blessed time over the Passover holidays."