Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Singapore on Monday morning, 20 February, for the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to the island city-state.
Singaporean President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong both received Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at Istana, the presidential palace in Singapore, where an honor guard welcomed them.
Netanyahu then met with the president and an extended panel of Singaporean lawmakers.
Tan noted that Israel and Singapore both began as small countries with no natural resources, and both have developed technologies to boost their growth and prosperity.
Netanyahu invited Tan to visit Israel, and also raised the issue of launching direct flights between the two countries.
The meeting was followed by a private meeting between Netanyahu and Lee, at which they discussed bolstering ties and collaboration between the two nations, as well as ways to assist African nations in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship.
Israel admires Singapore and treasures the two nations' relationship, Netanyahu said.
"Thank you for the very warm welcome. I have to say that this is my first time in Singapore. I'm following in your footsteps. You visited Israel for the first time, a historic visit.
"...As we landed here, I was absolutely amazed, tremendously impressed. As much as you hear about Singapore's success, to see it physically is quite startling, and it tells you the power of people, the power of ideas, the power of the potential or rather of talent unleashed.
"I want to thank you for your very warm welcome to me, to my wife and to our delegation. I believe that Israel and Singapore are kindred spirits.
"We're small nations that have become in many areas global powers, and I believe that our cooperation makes us even more successful.
"We have a joint R&D fund that has already funded 150 projects for Israeli and Singapore companies working together in a variety of fields, and I think that the opportunities are vast.
"We live in a technological age. The future belongs to those who innovate. Israel and Singapore are innovation nations, and together we can bring more prosperity, more hope for our peoples and I think for beyond our peoples, for the neighborhoods in which we live. We value the diversity in our societies, we value the pluralism in our societies, and we have much to learn from each other."
Lee welcomed Netanyahu to Singapore, saying he was glad he could reciprocate the hospitality he was shown during his visit to Israel in April 2016. He was the first Singaporean prime minister to visit Israel.
"Singapore and Israel are old friends," he said. He also thanked Israel for its assistance in building the Singaporean armed forces "from scratch."
"This ensured our survival at a time of great uncertainty and vulnerability. We will always be grateful. Since then, our ties have expanded beyond defense and security," he said.
Commenting on regional issues, Lee said he knows the situation in the Middle East is complex, and expressed hope that direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority can be resumed to ensure "progress toward a just and durable solution to this long-standing and often, unfortunately violent conflict."
Netanyahu left Singapore for Australia on Monday afternoon.
In Australia, he is meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Governor General Peter Cosgrove and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. He is also scheduled to attend an Israeli-Australian business conference, as well as meet with leaders of the local Jewish community.
Commenting on both visits during Sunday's Diplomatic-Security Cabinet meeting before his departure from Israel, Netanyahu said, "I believe this is the first time an Israeli prime minister will be visiting these two important countries. We are striving to bolster our defense, economic and trade ties with both nations.
"What we're doing is reinforcing Israel's international standing. This was evident on the visit to Washington; it was evident in earlier visits in the Muslim world, and now in Australia and in Asian powers. What is clear here, is that this also has an economic aspect. We're opening new markets and this contributes to Israel's economy."
This is a lightly edited version of the original article published by Israel Hayom at http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=40501