Israel Set Up Singapore's Army, Former Officers Reveal

The Singaporean army, which is today considered one of the strongest in southeast Asia, was set up by Israel. In December 1965, an Israeli military delegation arrived under a veil of secrecy and started to build the various branches of the armed forces.

Amnon Barzilai
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Amnon Barzilai

The Singaporean army, which is today considered one of the strongest in southeast Asia, was set up by Israel.

In December 1965, an Israeli military delegation headed by Major General Ya'akov Elazari arrived in Singapore under a veil of secrecy and started to build the various branches of the armed forces there.

Since then, security ties between the two countries have strengthened, and Singapore is now considered one of the biggest customers for Israeli arms and weapons systems.

Singapore's founding father and first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, asked Israel to help establish his country's army almost immediately after Singapore received independence from Malaysia in August 1965. He had earlier requested help from India and Egypt, but they turned him down.

The Israeli delegation consisted of six officers who were divided into two teams. One, headed by Elazari, set up the defense and internal security ministries, while the other, headed by Maj. Gen. Yehuda Golan, established the military infrastructure. They followed the model of the IDF, with a standing army and reserves.

The officers also served as instructors in the Singapore army's first basic training courses and its first course for officers, both commissioned and noncommissioned. The members of the delegation that went to Singapore were trained by the late cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi, who wrote the blueprint for Singapore's armed forces.

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