Much Israel, Singapore can learn from each other

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit to Israel not only reaffirms friendly bilateral ties, but also acknowledges the deep and longstanding relationship between our two nations ("PM takes stock of Singapore's ties with Israel"; Tuesday).

As the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew recounted in his memoirs, Israel was the only country that responded to our request for assistance in building up our military.

Its help during the difficult and uncertain years following independence contributed greatly to the defence of our nation and set the foundation for today's SAF.

Beyond defence ties, there is much room for mutual cooperation between our two small nations.

Israel has one of the world's leading start-up scenes, so there is much we can learn from its policies to improve our climate for entrepreneurs.

Mentorship programmes and study trips can be organised to tap Israel's expertise and to learn best practices on fostering a stronger entrepreneurial culture.

As a largely desert nation, Israel has also invested heavily in water technology, such as desalination and drip irrigation. Singapore companies and research institutes should continue to explore possible collaborations with their Israeli counterparts on managing our scarce water supplies.

I welcome the announcement of new cooperation agreements on cybersecurity, as well as technical assistance to developing countries.

This exchange of knowledge not only enriches our economies, but also enables our expertise to benefit the evolving needs of global development.

The bomb attack in Jerusalem which occurred during PM Lee's visit is a sad reminder of the volatile and long-running Israel-Palestine conflict, though no one has yet claimed responsibility for Monday's bombing ("Bomb attack on bus in Jerusalem"; yesterday).

I support PM Lee's endorsement of a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security ("Call for Israel, Palestine to restart talks"; yesterday).

Singapore's experience in fostering a peaceful environment in which different religions coexist can serve as an example of how mutual respect and understanding can help overcome historical divisions.

Dhevarajan Devadas

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Much Israel, Singapore can learn from each other'. Print Edition | Subscribe