Singapore Prime Minister to Arrive in Israel for Historic Visit

Lee Hsien Loong will be the first prime minister to visit Israel since Singapore's founding at the establishment of relations in 1969.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is set to arrive on a historic visit to Israel on Monday.

Lee will be the first prime minister to visit Israel since Singapore was founded in 1965 and since formal diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in 1969.

The visit was kept under wraps for a long time and the Prime Minister's Office announced it less than a day before the Singaporean prime minister's arrival. Lee, who will arrive with his wife, is scheduled to spend four days in Israel. He will lead a senior delegation that includes the foreign minister, the environment and water resources minister and the home affairs minister.

On Tuesday, the Singaporean prime minister and his entourage will be received at a formal ceremony in Jerusalem that will be followed by meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the evening, Lee and his wife will have dinner with the Netanyahus at the Prime Minister's Residence.

The Prime Minister's Office said that during the trip, the Singaporean prime minister will visit Yad Vashem, the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem's Old City and the Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus, where he will receive an honorary doctorate in philosophy.

The relations between Israel and Singapore are especially close and warm, and began in the days of Singapore's founder and first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew – the current prime minister's father. Alongside trade, the importance of the relations between the two countries stems from Singapore's geographic location near two large Muslim countries – Malaysia and Indonesia. Israel's military attaché in Singapore is an officer with the rank of brigadier-general, and in recent years the position has been filled by Israel Air Force pilots.

Security cooperation between Israel and Singapore dates back over a half a century. In fact, it was the IDF the helped the Singaporean government establish their army. Maj. Gen. Rehavam Zeevi was responsible for overseeing the army's creation and Col. Ya'akov Elazari led Israel's military delegation to Singapore. Together with other officers, these men wrote the military doctrine for Singapore's army.

According to international reports, Singapore is one of Israel's biggest clients in military hardware. Israel sends a delegation to the air show in Singapore on an annual basis and Israeli security firms participate in the event on a regular basis. Some of Israel's security industries even have official representatives in the country.

Thus for example, in 2010, a report in Defense News claimed that Singapore was poised to purchase Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. Singapore's air force maintains a squadron of Hermes 450 unmanned aerial vehicles manufactured by the Israeli firm Elbit and an additional squadron of Heron UAVs, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries.