Army chief heads to Singapore in rare public visit

Kohavi travels to Singapore for its defense expo, meetings with security officials; comes after similar trip by Gantz last year that was barred from publication by military censor

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi speaks during a ceremony for graduates of the Israeli Air Force's pilot course, at the Hatzerim airbase in southern Israel, on December 22, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi speaks during a ceremony for graduates of the Israeli Air Force's pilot course, at the Hatzerim airbase in southern Israel, on December 22, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi traveled to Singapore on Thursday to attend the country’s famed weapons expo and meet defense officials in the Asian nation, the military said.

Kohavi’s trip came some four months after a similar visit by Defense Minister Benny Gantz to the country. However, word of Gantz’s trip was barred for publication by the military censor — though this ban was later violated by Israeli media — while Kohavi’s was publicly announced by the IDF.

The army chief was scheduled to remain in Singapore for five days during the Singapore Airshow, one of the largest defense expos in the world.

A number of Israeli weapons makers will present their wares at the event, including Rafael, Elbit, Aeronautics and the Israeli Aerospace Industries, among others.

The IDF said that while Kohavi was abroad, Deputy Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi will carry out the responsibilities of chief of staff.

Israel and Singapore have long enjoyed open relations, including on the military front. The IDF helped Singapore create its armed forces after the country became independent in the mid-1960s.

Illustrative: An F-16 fighter jet flies past the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ SPYDER surface-to-air missile system, during a performance by the Singapore Air Force aerobatics team Black Knights at the Singapore Airshow in Singapore, on February 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Joseph Nair)

However, due to Singapore’s relationship with its neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia, neither of which maintain formal ties with Israel, the country tends to downplay its connections to Israel and its meetings with Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have said that the decision to censor Gantz’s trip in October was due to explicit requests from Singapore.

Singapore is Israel’s second-largest export destination in Asia after India, which is said to include arms, considering a significant portion of Israel’s exports are defense-related.

The Singapore Air Force’s 116th squadron, for instance, uses Hermes 450 drones, manufactured by the Israeli Elbit Systems defense contractor.

Israeli arms giant Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has also previously attended the Singapore Airshow, where it once unveiled a new laser defense system.

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