The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to visit Singapore within the next three months. The exact date of his trip was not specified but the paper said that “Netanyahu’s visit to Singapore will be a reciprocal visit to one that country’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made to Israel in April.”
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met his counterpart from Israel on 19 April during his week-long visit to the middle east. “We have a long and deep relationship between Singapore and Israel. Our business-to-business ties are strong … We admire your technical prowess and ecosystem,” Mr Lee told Mr Netanyahu during the meeting.
According to the publication, the Israeli PM is set to visit several other countries besides Singapore and he believes that all these invitations attest to the degree to which Israel’s international relations are flourishing – despite losing two votes in UNESCO on Jerusalem this month.
The United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution last week approving a new resolution on the status of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem. The vote passed 24 to 6, with 26 abstentions.
In secret ballot taken on 26 Oct, UNESCO agreed to retain the walled area, home to key Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites, on the list of endangered world heritage. It also criticised Israel for its continuous refusal to let UNESCO’s experts access Jerusalem’s holy sites to determine their conservation status.
The UNESCO document referred to the Jerusalem site only by its Arab name – al-Haram al-Sharif (Arabic for the Noble Sanctuary). The holy site includes Islam’s third holiest place, the al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome.
Israel presented an ancient fragment of text in Hebrew referencing Jerusalem and recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in a gesture of protest against a resolution.
Mr Netanyahu’s visit to Singapore will be the second by an Israeli head in 30 years. Israeli President Chaim Herzog visit to Singapore in November 1986 drew protests from neighbouring countries in the region, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia.
Mr Herzog was however warmly received by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who faced down high pressures to cancel the visit. Mr Lee extolled Singapore’s relationship with Israel, but he also urged Israel to vacate the Arab territories it occupied in 1967. Mr Herzog was also reportedly asked to shorten his visit to Singapore, and leave before Pope John Paul II’s arrival here.
Singapore has a long-standing relationship with Israel which includes civilian and military aid and trade ties.