PM replies to Pergas letter on Palestine issue

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.
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. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

PM Lee reiterates Singapore's support for two-state solution as the only path to peace and security in region

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2017, with the headline 'PM replies to Pergas letter on Palestine issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe