External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Tel Aviv on a two-day visit to Israel and Palestine, some three months after President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit -- the first by an Indian head of state to the region.
Swaraj was extended a red carpet welcome on her arrival at the Tel Aviv airport by Israeli officials.
Swaraj’s official engagement begins on Sunday morning in Palestine where she will be meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and her counterpart Riyad al Malki in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
She will also be offering floral tributes at the bust of father of nation Mahatma Gandhi in the Garden of Nations and lay wreath at the mausoleum of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The minister will also inaugurate the India-Palestine Digital Learning and Innovation Centre as part of capacity-building efforts undertaken by the Indian government in Palestine.
After her engagements in Palestine on Sunday, Swaraj will be back in Israel in the afternoon to kick start her two-day visit during which she will hold discussions with the top Israeli leadership to review a whole range of areas of cooperation between the two countries.
She will be meeting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who also retains the portfolio of foreign minister), defence minister Moshe Ya’alon, minister of infrastructure Yuval Steinitz and deputy foreign minister Tsipi Hotovely.
Many in Israel see Swaraj’s visit as a “build up” to the much-anticipated visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the region.
Netanyahu and Rivlin are also expected to visit India after having received invitations from Mukherjee in October during his visit to the region.