Beginning the first big diplomatic outreach of 2016, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj left on Saturday on a three-day visit covering Israel and Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority. After landing at the Tel Aviv airport, Ms. Swaraj, who stopped on the way at Abu Dhabi and Amman, will engage in talks with the Palestinian leadership, in the first half of her trip. The official visit will begin on Sunday morning. At Ramallah, Ms. Swaraj will be welcomed by her counterpart Riyad Al-Maliki.
She is scheduled to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over lunch. Palestinian sources indicated that senior leader Nabil Sha’ath is likely to meet Ms. Swaraj. In November 2014, he became the first Palestinian leader to interact with Ms. Swaraj. “We are happy that the External Affairs Minister will visit Palestine which is an affirmation of India’s close ties with Palestine since the early period of Independent India’s foreign affairs,” Palestinian Ambassador Adnan Abu Alhaija said.
However, the more intense part of the visit will take place on January 18 when Ms. Swaraj will be welcomed officially in Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.