Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan speaks on UN membership for Palestine in May 2024. Screenshot courtesy: Instagram/vivianbalakrishnan

Singapore, which has already voted in favour of a United Nations membership for Palestine, is prepared “in principle” to recognise a State of Palestine, but also wants a leadership that “accepts Israel’s right to exist and categorically rejects terrorism”, according to Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

He said this in Singapore Parliament yesterday in response to a cluster of questions related to Palestine, including one on statehood for Palestine.

MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim wanted to “ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) what is Singapore’s position on the recent unsuccessful draft UN Security Council resolution to recommend granting the State of Palestine full membership in the United Nations; and (b) what are Singapore’s considerations to support such a recommendation, in light of Singapore’s voting record of abstention on the status of Palestine in the United Nations as a non-Member Observer State at the 67th UN General Assembly on 29 November 2012”.

MP Gerald Giam Yean Song had questions on Singapore’s technical assistance to Palestinian officials; other contributions by Singapore towards realising a two-state solution; and what prevented Singapore from officially recognising the State of Palestine before a two-state solution was reached.

Gaza scene
Gaza scene at the end of June 2024, nearly nine months after the massive Hamas attack on Israel triggered a war. Photo courtesy: X/@UNRWA

MPs Muhamad Faisal Manap, Mariam Jaafar, and Leong Mun Wai also had questions about how Singapore planned to assist Palestine and if diplomatic relations would be considered.

FM Balakrishnan gave a comprehensive reply to these questions by the MPs. He said, “Let me begin by reaffirming the principles guiding Singapore’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have consistently advocated for a negotiated two-state solution, that is consistent with the relevant United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions, because we believe this is the way for Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace and security.”

The minister emphasised that a two-state formation ensuring peace for both parties was “the only viable path for achieving a comprehensive, just, and durable solution to this [Israel-Palestine] conflict”.

Regarding Singapore’s position on UN membership for Palestine, the foreign minister said, “We have also consistently supported the right of the Palestinian people to a homeland. In 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) issued a proclamation on the State of Palestine which affirmed the UN’s partition of the Mandate of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish State, as well as the PLO’s decision to renounce violence against Israel.”

“We welcomed this proclamation because the PLO, back in 1988, had explicitly rejected terrorism and recognised the right of the State of Israel to exist. We saw these moves as progress towards a durable solution,” said Balakrishnan.

This year, there were some UN developments on membership for Palestine, said Balakrishnan: “On 18 April 2024, a UN Security Council resolution that recommended that Palestine be admitted to membership in the UN was vetoed. On 10 May 2024, the [UN] General Assembly took up a resolution expressing support for Palestine’s membership in the United Nations and recommending that the Security Council reconsider this matter favourably.”

The foreign minister informed the MPs, “Singapore voted in favour of this resolution after very careful consideration. This reflected our hope to encourage both Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations towards a two-state solution, at a time when, in fact, the prospects for such negotiations were increasingly bleak.”

He said that Singapore “decided to join the majority of the international community in supporting the resolution, which is also in line with our longstanding support for the principles of international law and for the implementation of all relevant UN Security Council resolutions”.

Our [May 2024] vote at the United Nations General Assembly means that Singapore is prepared in principle to recognise the State of Palestine. We will make this move at an appropriate time. Our key consideration is that such a move on our part should help progress towards peace and a negotiated two-state solution. In particular, there will need to be an effective Palestinian government that accepts Israel’s right to exist and categorically rejects terrorism. Both sides have legitimate rights, and both peoples have a right to live in peace and dignity within secure borders.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

Since the massive attack of October 7, 2023, by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel, the war has continued for nearly nine months now, with a very brief ceasefire in November.

Balakrishnan said, “We urge both sides to seize the moment to take steps towards a long-lasting peace and put an end to the suffering that has gone on for too long. Ultimately, Israelis and Palestinians need to exercise leadership and will have to work together to forge a better future for their peoples.

“As Singapore is a friend to both, Singapore will continue to offer our encouragement and tangible support to both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Singapore “will continue to implement” its SGD 10 million Enhanced Technical Assistance Package to help the Palestinian Authority “build capacity and prepare for eventual statehood”, said the foreign minister.

“To date, we have trained more than 750 officials in areas like diplomacy, water management, economic management, and urban planning. These are important, vital areas that any government will need to have the necessary expertise in,” added Balakrishnan, referring to his March 2024 visit to Ramallah, the administrative centre of the Palestinian Authority.