Narendra Modi's visit to Israel

We waited 70 years, Bibi tells Modi

Historic first: Benjamin Netanyahu receives Narendra Modi at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, on Tuesday.

Historic first: Benjamin Netanyahu receives Narendra Modi at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, on Tuesday.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched down in Tel Aviv, saying he was fortunate to make what he called a “ground-breaking” visit as the first Indian Prime Minister in Israel.

“My visit celebrates the strength of centuries old links between our societies. Based on these bonds our partnership has maintained a strong and sustained upswing since the establishment of full diplomatic relations 25 years ago,” Mr. Modi said after he landed.

Prime Minister Modi was welcomed at a ceremony right at the Tel Aviv tarmac, that saw the official Air India-1 taxi down to a hangar where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the deputy chief of the Knesset (parliament) waited at the red carpet. After exchanging hugs, the two leaders addressed a select audience including clerics of different faiths, and members of the Israeli cabinet.

“We love India, Mr. Modi,” said Mr. Netanyahu, adding that Israel had awaited for the visit for “a long time, 70 years to be precise.”

India had voted against the partition of Palestine in 1947 and also against its induction as a United Nations member, finally recognizing the Jewish nation in 1950.

It wasn’t until 1992 that full diplomatic ties were established, however, by the Narasimha Rao government. And although the Israeli President and Prime Minister visited India more than a decade ago, those visits were only reciprocated by President Mukherjee in 2015 and Mr. Modi on Tuesday.

The visit will see the two leaders travel to most functions together.

On Tuesday evening, the leaders went to the Israel Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem together, and appeared before the press before going into a private dinner. “Yad Vashem is a reminder of the unspeakable evil inflicted generations ago,” said PM Modi, adding that “We must resolutely oppose the evils of terrorism, radicalism and violence that plague our time.” 

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel, Indian and Israeli officials stressed that defence ties and security cooperation between the two countries, that have squired the bilateral relationship thus far, will be relegated a back seat. The leaders will focus on a “non-security” strategic partnership involving agriculture, water, tourism, science technology and space.


Mr Modi and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to most events together and there will be “surprise opportunities” for them to use social media to speak to viewers online during the visit, officials said.

In another departure from form, official meetings will be held at Jerusalem’s King David hotel, where Mr. Modi is staying, and not at government offices.

At the red carpet welcome at Tel Aviv airport, Mr Netanyahu referred to an imminent announcement on space cooperation, likely to be an MoU between ISRO and Israel Space Agency (ISA) to launch satellites together. “The sky is not the limit for our relationship, given our plans in space together,” he quipped.

In a play of words meant to imitate Mr. Modi’s penchant for acronyms, Mr. Netanyahu said the India-Israel relationship could be described as “I-square T-square” (Indian Talent and Israeli Technology; India-Israel ties for tomorrow).

Personal connect

While neither defence cooperation, nor the politically sensitive issue of Palestine was referred to, Mr. Modi made a personal reference to the issue of terrorism, recalling that Tuesday marked the 41st anniversary of Operation Entebbe, a daring military rescue of Israeli hostages from Palestinian militants in Uganda that was led by Mr. Netanyahu’s brother Jonathan, who was killed during the operation.

“The gesture of PM Modi to remember the PM’s brother was thoughtful, and touched a chord,” Michael Oren, Deputy Minister in Mr. Netanyahu’s office told The Hindu after the ceremony, adding that it was “an indicator that he believes Israel and India face similar threats.”

Mr. Modi, who isn’t accompanied by any ministers, will address the Indian community at an event on Wednesday in Tel Aviv that Mr. Netanyahu will also attend.

Making a special mention of the Indian Jewish community, Mr. Modi ,who will address 4,000 of them at that event, said they had “enriched both Indian and Israeli societies”.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 3:41:58 PM |

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