Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be visiting India next month for talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, a senior minister said on Tuesday, days ahead of repeat polls in the Jewish nation. Israel’s Minister for Construction and Housing Yifat Shasha-Biton, while addressing a conference of Indian realtors’ body CREDAI here, called India an “economic power” with whom Israel shares common values.
Touching upon the close ties enjoyed between the two countries, she delved on prominent past visits by leaders from the two countries and then went on to say that the Israeli prime minister would be visiting India again next month.
Shasha-Biton also praised India for being “the unique country in the world where Jews were never prosecuted”. Informed sources have told PTI that the day-long visit by Netanyahu is scheduled for September 9, just eight days before Israel goes to repeat polls after he failed to form a government following the April 9 elections.
Some political analysts feel that Netanyahu’s meeting with Modi is a photo-op to project his acceptance worldwide and prop up his campaign just before the polls. Netanyahu, who created history on July 20 by becoming the longest serving Israeli prime minister, surpassing Israel’s first premier David Ben-Gurion, is facing a tough political challenge as opinion polls show flagging fortunes for his ruling Likud party.
Ha’aretz columnist Yossi Verter, in an opinion piece, ‘Netanyahu’s Out of Luck, but He’s Hoping a Photo-op With India’s Modi Will Help’, recently argued that Netanyahu, who’s fighting for his personal survival ahead of a hearing before the state prosecution on several graft cases, must find a way to bounce back.
He wrote that the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem is said to have reached out to their counterparts in New Delhi and requested for an invitation. Netanyahu had in fact tried to also meet Modi before the April 9 polls but it did not work out due to scheduling issues.
Sources privy to the development had told PTI that the first request for an invitation for Netanyahu to visit New Delhi was made in January during the visit of Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Sabbath to India.
The two premiers were scheduled to meet on February 11 before the elections in Israel but Netanyahu called off his trip to New Delhi due to other engagements. The efforts regarding the visit were renewed after the Israeli parliament was dissolved and fresh elections announced.
Netanyahu visited India in January 2018, while Modi travelled to Tel Aviv in 2017, becoming the first Indian prime minister to tour the Jewish state, where Netanyahu received him at the airport.
A picture of two of them strolling barefoot at the Olga beach in northern Israel during Modi’s visit to the country in 2017 created waves with talks of bromance’ in Israel. The close chemistry between the two leaders has been often discussed in the Israeli press. On August 4, Modi and Netanyahu exchanged warm messages on Friendship Day, vowing to strengthen the “eternal” ties between their countries.