Vivian Balakrishnan: S’pore does not take sides in Israel-Palestine conflict

This is a consistent position.

By Sulaiman Daud | January 9, 2018

As a small country, Singapore isn’t known for making big waves on the international relations front.

So perhaps it was surprising that on Dec. 21, 2017, we went against the United States and voted in favour of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution during the 10th Emergency Special Session.

That Resolution called on the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and its plans to move the US embassy to that city.

Trump naming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital affects S’poreans. Here’s how.

We favour the two-state solution

Singapore joined 127 other nations who voted for the Resolution, but went against longtime partners Israel and the US in doing so.

In all, 128 countries voted in favour of the resolution, 9 voted against, and 35 others abstained.

Following a question from MP Vikram Nair, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan explained the decision in Parliament on Jan. 9. He said:

“Singapore’s position on this has been consistent. We do not take sides on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our objective has always been to support a peaceful resolution to this conflict. We have been a steadfast advocate of a negotiated two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security.”

While not naming President Donald Trump or referring to the US embassy issue directly, he also said:

“Accordingly, the future status of Jerusalem should be determined through direct negotiations between both sides. And any unilateral and premature action that might alter the status of Jerusalem would only serve to further destabilise the region, it would impede progress towards a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Why we voted in favour

So what were the reasons for our vote?

Singapore’s key principle in international politics has always been to promote a rules-based order. Singapore is tiny, so it’s to our advantage that every other country agrees to operate by a set of rules and laws.

Imagine that the United Nations is a big classroom. There are some kids that are bigger than others. If there are no rules, the big kids can push the small kids around.

But if all the kids agree to follow a set of rules, then the smaller kids have a better chance of protecting their interests, as long as they uphold the rules themselves.

That’s why Vivian said about our position on the Israel-Palestine conflict that:

“It has at its foundation a key principle of Singapore’s foreign policy which is the promotion of a rules-based global community governed by the rule of international law, and always seeking peaceful resolution of disputes.”

Therefore Singapore believes that Israel and Palestine should be left to negotiate directly and determine the future status of Jerusalem themselves.

Trust in us

But there’s an added benefit to sticking by this principle, even when our partners disagree.

It safeguards our credibility and increases our influence on the world stage, despite our size. Said Vivian:

“Although other states, including bigger powers, may occasionally differ or disagree with certain positions that we take, we maintain a consistent application of this principle. And this ability to maintain consistency over the long term has enabled us to be taken seriously and regarded as a reliable partner who can play a constructive role in international affairs.”

But if you were paying attention, you’d know all this already.

That’s because we called it a couple of weeks ago in the article below.

S’pore voting against Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, explained

You can watch Vivian’s speech in the video below:

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Top image from Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Facebook page.

About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve. In his spare time he writes about film, pop-culture and international politics, which you are very welcome to read here.

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