Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Remarks at a Dinner with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, this evening (Monday, 20 February 2017, at the presidential palace in Singapore, attended a dinner together with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching. During the event an orchid was named after the Netanyahus.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the start of the dinner:
"I think too that we have a great power in the diversity that you mentioned Prime Minister. We brought people from hundred lands and we have a thriving Arab community inside Israel, over a million of our citizens are Arab citizens. They participate in the national life. I opened a school year, this year, in an Arab school in the Galilee and talked to young girls there who want to be doctors and I said: 'This is your country. Study, learn, thrive.'
This culture of diversity and tolerance is the opposite of what we see in many parts of the Middle East and unfortunately in other parts of the world - cultural intolerance, cultural tyranny, cultural violence. And I think there's a great battle that is taking place right now in the world in the beginning of the 21st century and we all have a stake in making sure that tolerance, diversity and progress win the day; that modernity wins the day against barbarian medievalism.
I think this is something that is shared by everyone, by our societies, by the countries of the West, the countries of Asia, the Muslim world itself.
I was recently in two Muslim countries, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and you understand how much they want to seize the future. You understand how much they teach tolerance because I was in a synagogue like the one I was in today and just as today, Jewish children were singing Hebrew songs in a country that is predominantly Muslim.
This is what we want to see. We want to see that tolerance and that acceptance, which I believe will ultimately decide the fate of our region and the fate of peace.
I want to assure you that I am committed to peace and the people of Israel yearn for peace, all of us. We pray for peace because we have experienced, as you said, the cost of war, we lost loved ones. I myself was wounded in battle. Peace is better. Infinitely better. And I believe that the key to peace is the abandonment of the goal of liquidating people, accepting them and working out the various conflicts.
I think there's an opportunity to do this today because I sense a great change in the Arab world in many Arab countries, and I hope, as we discussed earlier, to be able to use that newfound attitude towards Israel to help to solve the Palestinian Israeli conflict as well. This is something that we're making a lot of efforts to, most of them are, so we say, not publicized, not public.
Equally, there is one thing that I can say about the exceptional achievements of Singapore. I think that the fact that we are working together, we are cooperating in the economy, in trade, in technology, in medicine, in every field. I think this strengthens both our countries. We have extraordinary reputations in the world but the fact is that when we combine them, we have an even more powerful brand if I can use that jargon term. That brand is very powerful.
We spoke today about collaborating in third countries. We're already doing that in one African case, I think we should do it in many countries in Africa, in many countries in the Pacific. I think we have a lot to offer humanity and our success in not only the betterment of our own societies and our own peoples but we can carry this progress far and wide.
Israel is pivoting towards Asia in a very clear and purposeful way. Next month I'll go to China, somewhat later this year Prime Minister Modi of India will come to visit Israel. Perfectly poised between China and India is Singapore and I'm not speaking merely in a geographic sense, I'm saying that as a gateway to Asia, Singapore is a perfect partner. Israeli companies already understand that and I hope that after this visit, many more will understand that. We believe in Singapore, we admire Singapore, we admire the consistent leadership and vision that you had and that you continue to exemplify, Prime Minister.
I want to raise a glass to your leadership, to our friendship, to Mrs. Lee, and to the extraordinary bond between the people of Israel and the people of Singapore."