‘Modi’s arrival represents a turning point’: Israeli media on PM’s visit

Modi flew into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport to a rousing welcome from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the Israeli people had waited for this visit for 70 years.

india Updated: Jul 05, 2017 11:51 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Modi's Israel visit,Benjamin Netanyahu,India-Israel
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi being received by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, on his arrival, at Ben Gurion Airport, in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s path-breaking visit to Israel reflects Tel Aviv’s burgeoning status as a world power and could lead to a change in New Delhi’s stance on issues related to Israel at the United Nations, the Israeli media said on Wednesday.

Modi flew into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport to a rousing welcome from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the Israeli people had waited for this visit for 70 years. Netanyahu also signalled his desire to build future relations by marrying Israeli technology with Indian talent.

The Haaretz daily referred to Netanyahu’s description of the visit as a “historic day” and said: “Modi severed the permanent connection that India had made between promoting and openly displaying its ties with Israel and its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“He even elegantly skipped a visit to Ramallah. Netanyahu would want this trend to manifest itself in India’s voting in the United Nations – it’s too soon to tell whether it will,” the report added.

Read | Why no one protests against Modi’s Israel visit

In an opinion piece in The Times of Israel, columnist Amnon Lord wrote that Israel under Netanyahu had “shifted the center of gravity of its international relations at the perfect time” by strengthening ties at a time when Western nations were talking of isolating Israel.

“Despite the value placed by the Israeli elite on Merkelist Germany and a France that has become Macron-nesia, India constitutes a market of a billion and a half people, with a fast-growing economy and a great many strategic, military and technological needs,” Lord wrote in the piece headlined “What isolation?”.

Israel, he said, had achieved the status of a rising power in the international arena by “cultivating relations with China, Japan, South Korea, and particularly its good friend India”.

“For India, the Israel-India strategic axis is also important because of America’s unpredictable, hot-and-cold attitude toward it. Modi’s arrival in Israel represents a turning point,” the piece added.

In a piece headlined “Netanyahu should not build up ‘impossible expectations during Modi visit”, The Jerusalem Post noted Netanyahu liked to say that Israel is being courted by countries such as China and India for its technology and expertise in fighting terror.

Read | PM Modi’s Israel trip shows India’s mature approach with focus on economic, security gains | Opinion

However, the Post cautioned that Israel, with a population of 8.3 million, “can only go so far” in coming up to the expectations of other nations.

“Modi has embarked on an ambitious plan to lift his nation to a new level, and he has identified Israel as a country that can help him do that. Which is flattering,” the piece said.

“But let’s be realistic. The ability and resources of a country of only 8.3 million people, with plenty of its own challenges to deal with, can only go so far.

“Netanyahu would be wise in not overstating what Israel has, or is able, to offer – either to the Indian leader or to the heads of African states he now meets on a regular basis. Otherwise, and despite his best intentions, he may end up with angry and disappointed customers.”

Most of the reports in the Israeli media noted the warmth displayed by Modi and Netanyahu during their interaction at Ben Gurion airport, especially the Israeli premier’s greeting in Hindi and his Indian counterpart’s response in Hebrew.

The reports also noted how Modi had referred to the death of Netanyahu’s brother in a daring mission to rescue the passengers of a hijacked airliner at Entebbe, Uganda, on July 4, 1976.

Read | Support India hook, line and sinker on terror, says Israeli official ahead of PM Modi’s visit

“The two leaders, who met in 2014 and again in 2015 at international meetings abroad, are believed to have struck up a positive personal relationship that was on display at the airport,” the Post reported.

The Haaretz also noted that while cooperation in the fight against terror was high on the agenda for Modi’s visit and the Indian side is glad to accept any Israeli assistance in this area, New Delhi was “not anxious to discuss” an attack by alleged “Iranian agents” on Israeli diplomats “within spitting distance of Modi’s office” in New Delhi in 2012.

“When Modi talks about terror, he means Jihadist groups identified with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban which, encouraged and backed by Pakistani intelligence, commit terror attacks against India,” the report said.

The wife of the then Israeli defence attaché in India, Tali Yehoshua-Koren, was wounded in the 2012 attack. The Haaretz noted that Israel’s ambassador to India, Daniel Carmon, told the Hindustan Times in February that Tel Aviv “would not rest until the last of the assailants stood trial”.

“But the fact is that the Indians have not yet tried even the first of those involved,” the report said.

Though a suspect was arrested by Indian security agencies after the attack, “the Indians let the investigation disintegrate”, the report added.

“The suspect was released and no verdict has been issued to this day. Moreover, although the Indians know full well that Iran was behind the attack, they still refuse to admit it officially and point a finger at the regime in Tehran,” the report further said.

The Haaretz reported that senior Israeli defence and foreign ministry officials had conceded off the record that the “issue has been covered up and made to go away by the Indians, who acted anaemically toward the Iranians due to a long list of other interests that were more important”.

The foreign ministry made every attempt before Modi’s visit to take the “Iranian issue off the public and media agenda” to avoid any dispute during the Indian leader’s trip, the report added.

Read | Pak media on Modi’s Israel visit: Need to checkmate India’s aggressive moves

First Published: Jul 05, 2017 11:51 IST