(JNS.org) Israeli President Reuven Rivlin traveled to Singapore on Wednesday to attend the funeral of the country’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who died earlier this week at age 91.
“I am traveling with a sense of respect for the great people of Singapore upon the death a significant leader such as Lee Kuan Yew,” Rivlin said in a statement before departing on Wednesday for the funeral, which is scheduled for Sunday.
“I’m going to represent the State of Israel and its citizens not only to express condolences at the passing of the founder of Singapore, but also to express our appreciation for his work as an important and valued leader,” said Rivlin. “The State of Israel sees Singapore as a significant and important friend, and I have no doubt that relations between the two countries will continue to get stronger.”
First assuming office in 1959, Lee was instrumental in helping to establish Singapore as a major global hub for trade and business. He served as Singapore’s leader until stepping down in 1990.
Lee forged a close relationship with Israel during his time as prime minister. The two countries first established diplomatic relations in 1969, and Israel played an important role in the development of Singapore’s armed forces in both training and weapons-system exports. Today, the two countries enjoy a robust military relationship and strong economic ties, with bilateral trade totaling $1.956 billion in 2013.