‘Palestine issue doesn’t diminish India-Israel relations’

Ties between the two countries improving in agriculture, defence and cybersecurity, says Consul General Tammy Ben-Haim

May 25, 2022 07:58 pm | Updated 07:58 pm IST - Chennai

Tammy Ben-Haim

Tammy Ben-Haim | Photo Credit: PICHUMANI K.

The unresolved Palestine issue could be a factor in India-Israel relationship, but it does not diminish or negate the partnership between the two countries, Tammy Ben-Haim, Israel’s Consul General in Bangalore, said.

“The Palestine issue is still a factor. But I think it was definitely proven with the Abraham Accords that the Palestinian issue can be an issue, it can be an issue of disagreement, an issue of arguments, but it doesn’t diminish, or negate or take away the relationship. So it’s still an issue, but I don’t know where it is on the list from one to ten,” Ms. Ben-Haim said in an interaction with The Hindu.

Under the Abraham Accords, signed in 2020, Israel signed normalisation agreements with four Arab countries — the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

“It took a while for India and Israel to get the relationship going, to recognise both sides and establish full diplomatic relationship,” she said, adding that ties were now improving in different fields such as agriculture, defence and cybersecurity.

Pegasus issue

Regarding the allegations around Pegasus, the spyware manufactured by Israeli company NSO Group, Ms. Ben-Haim said: “It’s a private company. It’s not even a weapons company. But still they need to have approvals for exports. The government of Israel did set limits on its exports only to governments, for specific use, and specific reasons. So they do have to prove that they comply with the regulations. We are limiting them to selling to governments and governments are using it for specific reasons.”

On whether the NSO was required to monitor the end use of the spyware it exports, she said: “I am sure contracts were signed and stipulations were made. The main purpose of Pegasus is to fight terrorism...”

There were allegations that the weapons-grade spyware was used by governments to carry out surveillance on journalists, activists and even political rivals across several countries, including in India.

Iran nuclear deal

Regarding the Iran nuclear deal, Ms. Ben-Haim said Israel was not opposed to dialogue with Iran but was consistent in its criticism of the 2015 nuclear deal. “The 2015 agreement was too weak. If they are discussing a stronger and longer agreement that would include not just Iran’s nuclear programme but also the issue of Iran’s rockets and its destabilising presence in the region [it’s welcome]. You are dealing with a player that has said it wants to destroy Israel. They are very clear in their regional ambitions and nuclear ambitions. So enter [talks], but enter slowly, correctly and make sure you have a good deal happening.”

She added that Iran was “putting money in the hands of Hezbollah and Hamas to instigate them to build bombs and rockets and carry out terror attacks against Israel”.

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