image Photo: Miri Shimonovich (MFA)

Singapore to open first embassy in Israel

The two countries have held good diplomatic relations since 1965.

By Erin Viner

During a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid, Singaporean Foreign Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan announced his nation’s decision to open its first embassy in Israel.

“I welcome the Government of Singapore’s decision to open an embassy in Israel for the first time since our diplomatic relations were established,” said Foreign Minister Lapid, who also serves as Alternate Premier.

“This is further evidence of the good and special relations between our two countries,” he underscored.

Until now, Singapore has been represented in Israel by a non–resident ambassador as well as an honorary consulate in Tel Aviv.

Israel has had an embassy in Singapore since 1968, initially opened as a trade center that same year.

The Southeast Asian island city-state has largely maintained a low profile on its warm 57-year relationship with the Jewish State over concerns of straining ties with neighboring major Muslim powers Indonesia and Malaysia.

Both Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur furiously denounced the 1986 visit to Singapore by former Israeli President Chaim Herzog, the father of current President Isaac Herzog; threatening to cut off water supply via the Johor-Singapore Causeway. A later visit by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017 failed to evoke similar protest.

According to the last census, 31.15 of Singaporeans identify as Buddhist, 20% belong to no religion, 18.9% are Christian, 15.6% are Muslim, 8.8% practice Taoism and 5% are Hindu. While the Jewish community dates back to the 19th century, there are only about 10,500 Jews living there.

Burgeoning bilateral trade predominantly involves Israel’s import of Singaporean machinery and computer hardware and export of electrical equipment.

The two nations also enjoy extensive defense ties, including joint projects. It is interesting to note that Singapore modelled its national service program on the IDF. Israel has supplied aircraft, tanks, missiles, Iron Dome defense system batteries and military advise to Singapore.