SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Singapore early Monday morning and went immediately to the presidential palace for meetings with the city-state’s president and prime minister.
Netanyahu was greeted by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and a military honor guard.
Netanyahu met first with President Tony Tan Keng Yam where the two discussed joint cooperative projects dealing with innovation and technology in Africa, as well as initiating direct Singapore- Tel Aviv flights.
At the conclusion of his meeting with President Tony Tan Keng Yam Netanyahu moved into a private meeting with Loong.
Despite the pomp and circumstance, the Singaporeans have requested a relatively low profile for the visit. The country is concerned that a very high profile visit could trigger angry protests in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, which are both Muslim majority nations. Though Netanyahu will meet with the small Jewish community in Singapore, he will not have any large public appearances.
Israel assisted Singapore in 1965 in setting up its army, which has turned into one of the strongest militaries in this part of the world, lagging behind only China and India.
Prime Minister Lee alluded to these ties when he spoke at Hebrew University when he was in Israel last year. In addition, wide spread economic ties have developed between the two countries, with numerous Israeli high-tech firms represented here, one of Asia’s key financial centers.
Singapore reportedly has also turned into a base for Israeli firms doing business in Indonesia and Malaysia, countries with whom Israel has no diplomatic ties.
While economic and security issues, not the Palestinians, will top the agenda, a senior diplomatic official said that no agreements on settlement construction were reached during Netanyahu’s visit last week to Washington. The official said the Trump administration has yet to set up a team that will engage with Israel on this issue, and that no decision has been made on whether a new settlement will be built -as the government promised -for those evacuated from Amona.
Likewise, the official did not deny a report in Haaretz on Sunday about a meeting John Kerry arranged in Aqaba over a year ago with Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The source, however, said there were numerous inaccuracies in the report that claimed Netanyahu was largely responsible for this particular regional initiative not moving forward.
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