President Pranab Mukherjee, who’s on a historic two-day visit to Israel, on Wednesday told Israel’s political leadership that religion can’t be the basis of State.
“Violence is not a solution to any crisis. Violence achieves nothing but more violence. We in India believe in a principle of live and let live,” the President told Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, the Israeli Leader of Opposition.
The President’s comments come at a time when violence is escalating in Jerusalem in Gaza between Palestinians and Israel. Over the last few weeks, a number of Palestinians and Israelis were killed in East Jerusalem and Gaza. On Tuesday, three Israelis were killed in two separate incidents in East Jerusalem.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday morning after receiving a ceremonial reception at the presidential palace here, President Mukherjee condemned the recent spate of violence. “We are distressed at the recent violence. India condemns all forms of terrorism. We have always advocated a peaceful resolution of all disputes,” he said.
Read: >Live updates of Pranab Mukherjee's address at the Israel Parliament
But Mr. Mukherjee remained silent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his address at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked radicalism and the “enemies” who want to destroy Israel.
The local press here was critical of Mr. Mukherjee’s visit to Palestine. The Jerusalem Post ran a story Wednesday saying the Indian President remained silent on terror in his visit to Palestine.
Mr. Mukherjee, who arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday after visiting Jordan and Palestine, called for enhanced cooperation between India and Israel in the fields of agriculture, defence and technology. This is the first time an Indian President is visiting Israel. India and Israel established full diplomatic relations only in 1992. Former Israeli President Ezer Weizman had visited India in 1997, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to New Delhi in 2003 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
“My state visit to Israel is taking place at a time when relations between our two governments are taking a very positive trajectory,” said Mr. Mukherjee in the Israeli Parliament. He said Israel’s technological advances could help India increase its industrial production, and create jobs in both countries.
Mr. Mukherjee had actually reasserted India’s position in Ramallah that New Delhi supported a peaceful solution of the Israeli Palestinian crisis. In Abu Dis he said the “entire political leadership of India” remained committed to the Palestinian cause.
Mr. Netanyahu, who spoke after President Mukherjee’s speech, said Israel wants peace, but before talks to be started, terror should be stopped. “Israel wants peace, I want peace. I am interested in launching negotiations immediately, without preconditions. In order for this to happen, the terror incidents will have to stop and the Palestinians will have to recognise the State of Israel.”
The Israeli Prime Minister also said that he speaks to ‘My dear friend (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi quite often. When we met once, he told me ‘India wants Israel” and that “I see a paragon of fraternity between our two countries”.
Mr. Netanyahu and the Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein have recalled that both India and Israel are victims of “Islamist terrorism”, and urged for standing together against extremism.
President Mukherjee will meet Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday before wrapping up his six-day tri-nation tour.