Good ties with Israel, principled support for Palestine is our policy: Pranab

Invites Israeli President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit India.

Updated - November 17, 2021 01:03 am IST

Published - October 16, 2015 04:54 pm IST - On board President’s aircraft

Jerusalem: President Pranab Mukherjee shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset looks on, at Knesset in Jerusalem on Wednesday. PTI Photo / RB    (PTI10_15_2015_000091B)

Jerusalem: President Pranab Mukherjee shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset looks on, at Knesset in Jerusalem on Wednesday. PTI Photo / RB (PTI10_15_2015_000091B)

President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday reiterated India’s approach towards Israel and Palestine that New Delhi would continue to support the Palestinian cause while pursuing improved relationship with Israel.

Speaking to the accompanying delegation on board of the President’s aircraft while returning from Israel, Mr. Mukherjee said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas briefed him about the evolving situation in Israel-Palestine relations.

“I reiterated India’s principled support to the Palestine cause and called for a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap and relevant UNSC (UN Security Council) resolutions,” the President said.

He was referring to a peace plan proposed by the “Quartet on the Middle East” — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

President Mukherjee’s Palestine visit carries strong symbolic value as he’s the first head of the state staying overnight in Ramallah, where the Palestine Authority headquarters is based. “President Abbas appreciated our support and thanked me profusely for staying overnight in Ramallah, being the first head of State from any country to do so,” said Mr. Mukherjee.

At the same time, the President described Israel “one of the most important countries for India”. During his visit, both countries signed two government-level agreements and exchanged eight memoranda of understanding between educational institutions from India and Israel.

Asked how India would manage its ties with both countries at a time when tensions are high between Israel and Palestine, Mr. Mukherjee said: “Twenty-three years ago we established full diplomatic relationship with Israel. We also maintain our stated principled position on Palestine. That's the job the government is doing for the last two and a half decades.”

Earlier this week, President Abbas had accused Israel of executing Palestinian boys. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, while speaking at the Knesset on Wednesday after President Mukherjee addressed the parliamentarians, said Israel wants peace but “in order for this to happen, the terror incidents will have to stop and the Palestinians will have to recognise the State of Israel”.

But President Mukherjee said that in his conversations with both sides, he could sense a “desire” to settle the issue peacefully.

Asked about his comment in Israel that religion should not be the basis of state, Mr. Mukherjee said he was giving examples of Pakistan and Bangladesh. “Pakistan was created out of India on the basis of religion in 1947. Within 25 years a large chunk of people came out of Pakistan and became another independent State. That’s the point which I explained to the Israeli leader of opposition and other members. Religion cannot be the basis of the state.”

While speaking at Hebrew university on Thursday, the president had re-emphasised India's diversity and pluralism. He said diversity is an integrating factor for India.

It’s worth nothing that his repeated comments on India’s plural values come at a time when intolerance-related violence is on the rise in the country. “Certain messages and principles are relevant for very very long period of time. Peaceful coexistence (laid out by Jawaharlal Nehru) is one such message, and it's not bound within a time frame,” he said on Thursday.

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