Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday had a telephone conversation with the newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and invited him to visit India “at an early date”.
“Prime Minister conveyed his warm congratulations to H.E. Mr. Netanyahu for his election as the Prime Minister of Israel for a sixth time and wished him a very successful tenure,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
Mr. Netanyahu paid a six-day visit to India in January 2018, when he was welcomed by Mr. Modi at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here. The Israeli leader was then accompanied by a 130-member business delegation. Mr. Modi had visited Israel in 2017, when Mr. Netanyahu had welcomed him at the Ben Gurion airport.
“The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the rapid progress in the India-Israel Strategic Partnership in recent years, and agreed on the potential for further strengthening strategic cooperation in a variety of areas. Prime Minister invited H. E. Mr Netanyahu to visit India at an early date,” the MEA said.
India and Israel joined the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates to form the I2U2 — a new regional initiative — in July 2022. The initiative is aimed at increasing cooperation in areas like digital connectivity, agriculture, infrastructure, trade and clean energy.
Mr. Netanyahu was sworn-in on December 29, 2022 when he also won a vote of confidence in the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset. Israel’s Ambassador to India Naor Gilon had informed the media in December 2022 of the possibility of the visit by the Israeli leadership to New Delhi.
Days after Mr. Netanyahu’s swearing-in, the National Security Minister of his far-right government, Itamar Ben Gvir, walked into the Temple Mount for a brief period on the morning of January 3. Under a status quo formula, the religious location is administered by the Jordanian Islamic Waqf while the Israeli police maintains security at the premises. Mr. Gvir’s visit to the venerated site was criticised by Palestinian groups like the Hamas as well as the U.S. administration.
The religious space which is called Temple Mount by the Jewish side and Haram al Sharif by the Muslim community is a sensitive zone, and has been at the centre of competing claims from both sides in the past. The shrine is considered holy by all the Abrahamic faiths but non-Muslims are forbidden from praying at the location that they can visit only as tourists at designated hours.
The site which triggered the first controversy of the Mr. Netanyahu sixth term came under Israeli control after the Arab-Israel war of 1967.