PM Lee Hsien Loong responds to Pergas letter on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) has written to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to express its concern over the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israel's settlement building in the Palestinian territories.

The association also acknowledged Singapore's position on the matter, for both sides to work towards a two-state solution, and welcomed the appointment of Mr Hawazi Daipi as Singapore's representative to the Palestinian National Authority.

"We support the government's position on this, and hope that Israel and Palestine can work together toward building peace and harmony," said Pergas.

PM Lee, in his reply, said he fully understood Pergas' concerns.

He wrote that 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.

Both letters were released to the media by Pergas on Friday (Feb 24).

Pergas had sent its letter on Feb 17, ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's two-day visit to Singapore this week.

The association said it hoped Mr Lee could convey the concerns of Singapore Muslims over the situation in the Palestinian territories.

"As Muslims, and as Singaporeans, who hold firmly the values of harmony and justice, we - like any other religion or nation - reject all forms of injustice, aggression and oppression," it wrote in Malay. "Violence only begets violence. And security, in fact, will not be achieved if injustice, oppression and discrimination continues to run rampant."

In a letter dated Feb 21, Mr Lee said Singapore is friends with both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, as well as many Arab countries.

He added: "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 said he had expressed this to Mr Netanyahu when he visited Israel last year - and had once again conveyed Singapore's concerns and position when Mr Netanyahu was in Singapore.

Mr Lee said he also explained why the Middle East matters to Singapore.

The Israeli-Palestinian issue is an emotional matter for Muslim communities, he said, adding: "Singapore is in Southeast 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."

The country fervently hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which will contribute to a safer Middle East - and a safer world, said Mr Lee.

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