Tuesday, 21 February 2017

PM Lee: 2-state solution only way to peace for Israel, Palestine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu official visit to Singapore
Singapore hopes both sides can resume direct talks for a just and durable solution, PM Lee tells Netanyahu
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 21 Feb 2017

Singapore hopes both Israel and Palestine can resume direct negotiations and make progress on a "just and durable solution" to their longstanding conflict, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

"We have consistently believed that a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, however hard to achieve, is the only way to bring peace and security to both peoples and to the Middle East," he said.

He was reiterating Singapore's longstanding position on the Middle East peace process at a joint press briefing with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after they met at the Istana.

Mr Netanyahu arrived yesterday for a two-day visit and, after a ceremonial welcome, called on President Tony Tan Keng Yam. He also met PM Lee and they discussed bilateral cooperation as well as developments in the Middle East.

Mr Lee said he explained to his counterpart that while the Middle East is far from South-east Asia, what happens there has an impact on and concerns Singapore.

Many around the world are seized with the Israel-Palestine issue, an emotional one especially for Muslim communities, he noted.

"Singapore is good friends with Israel and also good friends with the Palestinian National Authority and many Arab countries," he added.

Mr Lee made clear Singapore's stand on a two-state solution when he met Mr Netanyahu in Israel last year. "It is still our view," he said.

During their meeting yesterday, Mr Lee also reiterated Singapore's support for Israel's right to live within secure borders and in peace, and also the right of the Palestinian people to a homeland.

"Both sides should exercise restraint and be prepared to make compromises in order to achieve a lasting peace," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Mr Lee also noted that Israel was one of Singapore's oldest friends, having responded to its request for help to build up an armed forces in the early years after Singapore's independence in 1965, "for which we will always be grateful".

Ties have expanded, and both men said there was room for more cooperation, which now includes research and development, technical cooperation and education.

Mr Netanyahu said: "I believe Israel and Singapore are kindred spirits, we are small nations that have become, in many areas, global powers, and I believe our cooperation makes us even more successful."

Both countries, he added, can bring prosperity, hope and a better life for their peoples and the neighbourhoods in which they live. "We value the diversity in our societies, we value the pluralism in our societies and we have much to learn from each other," he said.

One area in which Israel is keen to learn from Singapore is its public housing system, added Mr Netanyahu, who will visit Toa Payoh today.

"We find this relationship particularly productive and valuable to ensure security and prosperity for our peoples in the future," he added.

PM Lee hosted an official dinner for Mr Netanyahu, and said in a speech that Singapore was fortunate to have enjoyed peace with its neighbours since independence, and this had enabled it to grow and prosper. "It is in this spirit that Singapore wishes for peace in the Middle East," Mr Lee said.

A peace settlement seems a long way off, but Singapore hopes it will be achieved one day, he added.

Mr Netanyahu said he was committed to peace, and the people of Israel yearn for it. "I sense a great change in the Arab world and many Arab countries," he said, adding that he hoped "to be able to use that newfound attitude towards Israel to help us solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well."

He said Israel was also pivoting to Asia in a "very clear and purposeful way", and Singapore was perfectly poised between China, which he will visit next month, and India.

"As a gateway to Asia, Singapore is our perfect partner," he added.

Mr Netanyahu, who was accompanied by his wife Sara and senior officials, also met Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and several Cabinet ministers over lunch. He leaves for Australia later today.



PM Lee replies to Pergas letter on Palestine issue
PM Lee reiterates Singapore's support for two-state solution as the only path to peace and security in region
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 25 Feb 2017

The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) wrote to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last week to express its concern over the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel's settlement building in the Palestinian Territories.

In the letter, sent before Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Singapore over two days this week, Pergas hoped Mr Lee could convey to him the concerns of the Singapore Muslim community about the situation in Palestine.

Pergas also acknowledged the Singapore Government's position on the issue, and welcomed its appointment of Mr Hawazi Daipi last year as Singapore's representative to the Palestinian National Authority.

"We support the Government's policy, and hope that Israel and Palestine can work together towards building peace and harmony," Pergas said in its Feb 17 letter, which was written in Malay and signed by its president, Ustaz Hasbi Hassan.

The group made public its letter, and Mr Lee's reply, yesterday.

Mr Lee also shared the exchange of letters in a Facebook post, saying: "I fully understood these concerns, and reiterated Singapore's position to PM Netanyahu."

He added: "We continue to support a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, as the only path to lasting peace and security in the region. We are also committed to assisting the Palestinians."

In his reply on Tuesday, Mr Lee said while the situation is complex, Singapore has always urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations and work towards a just and durable solution to the conflict.

"I thank you for supporting Singapore's position, which reflects the interests of our nation," he said.

Pergas wrote that "as Muslims, and as Singaporeans, who hold firmly to the values of harmony and justice, we - like any other religion or nation - reject all forms of injustice, aggression and oppression."

"Violence only begets violence. And security, in fact, will not be achieved if injustice, oppression and discrimination continue to be rampant," it said in the letter.

In his reply, Mr Lee said Singapore is friends with both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, as well as many Arab countries.

"We are convinced that a two- state solution for Israel and Palestine, however hard to achieve, is the only way to bring peace and security to both peoples," he added.

Mr Lee said he had expressed this to Mr Netanyahu when he visited Israel last year - and once again conveyed Singapore's concerns and position to Mr Netanyahu this week.

Mr Lee added that he explained why the Middle East matters to Singapore.

"People all over the world are seized with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and with the plight of the civilians caught up in the conflict. For Muslim communities particularly, it is an emotional matter," he said.

"Singapore is in South-east Asia, surrounded by Muslim-majority countries. And we ourselves have a substantial Muslim population, who are an important part of our harmonious multi-ethnic society.

"Singapore fervently hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which will contribute to a stabler Middle East and indeed a safer world," he added.


Parliament: Singapore has always stood by two-state solution for Israel, Palestine - Maliki Osman

By Eileen Ng, TODAY, 3 Mar 2017

Despite Singapore’s close relations with Israel, the Republic has taken a principled, consistent and long-standing position on the Israel-Palestine issue, said Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman yesterday.

Speaking during the Committee of Supply Debate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Parliament, Dr Maliki said Singapore has good relations with both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), as well as many Arab countries.

“Although the situation is complex and progress is difficult, Singapore has always urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations and work towards a just and durable solution to this long-standing conflict,” he said in response to a question from Potong Pasir Member of Parliament Sitoh Yih Pin.

This is because we are convinced that a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, however hard to achieve, is the only way to bring peace and security to both peoples.”

Multiple efforts have been made to broker an agreement on a two-state solution, in which Israel would exist peacefully alongside a new Palestinian state created in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, land seized by Israel in the 1967 war, without success.

Dr Maliki said yesterday that during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official week-long trip to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories last year and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official visit to Singapore last month, Mr Lee had “clearly articulated” Singapore’s long-standing and consistent position on the Middle East peace process, including the Republic’s support for the two-state solution.

“While Singapore supports Israel’s right to live within secure borders and in peace, at the same time, we also support the right of the Palestinian people to a homeland. We have consistently voted in favour of most of the Palestinian-related resolutions tabled at the UN (United Nations) General Assembly,” Dr Maliki said.

He noted that Mr Lee last year pledged to double an existing technical assistance package by Singapore to the PNA from S$5 million to S$10 million. He said Singapore has trained over 260 Palestinian officials in various courses over the years.

Going forward, Dr Maliki said Singapore is working closely with the PNA to identify critical areas where the Republic can contribute to capacity-building in the Palestinian Territories, within Singapore’s limited resources.

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