SINGAPORE, Feb 29 — While Singapore recognises Israel’s right to self-defence, its military response has gone “too far”, and the catastrophic situation in Gaza that has resulted from it demands “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan today.

Speaking in Parliament during a debate on his ministry’s spending, Balakrishnanadded that Singapore will be donating a third tranche of aid to the Palestinian territory via Jordan.

This aid follows two tranches of life-saving aid which were sent via Egypt in November, about month after Israel launched its war against Hamas there, following an attack by the latter.


Balakrishnanalso said that in spite of calls by some people to do so, Singapore will not sever diplomatic ties with Israel and recall its ambassador as these moves will not resolve the situation.

“Ceremonially breaking ties with countries every time we disapprove of their actions, in my view, that’s not constructive,” he said.

“Whatever we say or do diplomatically will not change the situation on the ground nor, I will add, will it influence Israel to suddenly change its policy, or will it necessarily immediately reduce the suffering on the Palestinians.”


Instead, it is important to maintain good ties with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he said.

Balakrishnantoday also stressed the importance of domestic unity and to not allow external events to affect Singapore’s cohesion.

Aiding humanitarian situation in Gaza

The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has resulted in a humanitarian crisis that is “appalling” with far too many innocent civilians lost or maimed, said Balakrishnan.

Singapore condemned Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians and kidnapping of hostages on Oct 7 as these were blatant and abhorrent acts of terrorism.

“To excuse terrorism now for whatever reason, in fact, puts Singapore at risk,” he said, as terrorism is a “clear and present threat” to Singapore.

Singapore also recognised Israel’s right to self-defence, not because it is taking sides, but because “we will assert Singapore’s right to self-defence if we ever face a situation like that”.

He said however that Israel’s military response has gone “too far”.

“For avoidance of ambiguity, I’m going to repeat that line: Israel’s military response has gone too far.

“The catastrophic situation in Gaza demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to alleviate the unbearable suffering of the civilian victims and to enable humanitarian assistance to reach them, immediately. We are also concerned that there may be a potential ground offensive into Rafah will worsen the situation further,” he said.

Singapore has also voted for two United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolutions that called for such a ceasefire, he added.

In response to a question raised by Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang Group Representation Constituency Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim on how Singapore is helping to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Balakrishnansaid Singapore and Singaporeans have contributed generously to humanitarian assistance there.

“Singaporean NGOs (non-government organisations) and the Government have raised more than S$10 million for relief operations in Gaza, so far. I’m confident more will follow,” he said.

“Our strong ties with partners in the Middle East have allowed us to collaborate with them on the delivery of this aid.”

Since November, about a month after the latest round of violence started, Singapore has sent two tranches of life-saving aid for civilians in Gaza.

In January, a Singapore Armed Forces medical team was sent onboard a French Navy ship in Egypt to treat casualties from Gaza.

In addition to the third tranche of aid, Singapore will continue its long-standing support for the Palestinian Authority’s capacity-building efforts, through the S$10 million (RM35.3 million) Enhanced Technical Assistance Package.

He reiterated that Singapore has maintained good ties with the Palestinian Authority, with a representative office established in Ramallah in 2022.

“We do all this because we look forward to the day when there’s peace, and that there is a functioning, capable Palestinian state, and that the Palestinian people get the peace and progress which they so richly deserve.”

National interest to maintain ties

Balakrishnansaid that as a small country, it is in Singapore’s interest to maintain ties with as many countries as possible.

He noted that none of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have severed diplomatic ties with Israel.

Neither have some Asean countries like Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, nor Arab countries like Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Balakrishnanreiterated Singapore’s belief that a negotiated two-state solution is the key to long-lasting peace, though it may be challenging to reach that.

“Israel has a right to live peacefully within secure borders. But the Palestinian people also have a right to a homeland. This is why back in 1988 — I bet most people are not aware — but back in 1988, we welcomed the proclamation of a Palestinian state,” he said.

Singapore also has consistently opposed moves that undermine a two-state solution, he added.

“For example, we view Israel settlements in the West Bank as illegal under international law. And we think, in fact, proceeding with the way they have proceeded over the last couple of decades after the failure of the Oslo Accords will only make things worse and makes it much more difficult to arrive at a two-state solution,” he said.

“We have voted in support of every UN resolution that calls on Israel to rescind unilateral measures to change the status of Jerusalem.”

Domestic unity essential

While he is heartened that many Singaporeans feel deeply about the situation in Gaza, Balakrishnansaid foreign policy cannot be driven one way or another by sentiments.

“Foreign policy must be based on understanding our core interests and acting consistently in accordance with the principles that safeguard our independence, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity, and our security,” he said.

In the future, there will be many foreign policy issues that are sensitive, he added.

Hence, it is key that Singapore does not allow external issues to sow division domestically.

“Otherwise... we’ll be vulnerable, we will not be independent, we will not have autonomy,” he said. — TODAY