PM Modi raises terror on ‘groundbreaking’ visit, Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes ‘mere dost’

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Israel to meet with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, the focus is on various issues ranging from defence to development and on strategic partnership.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | Jerusalem | Updated: July 5, 2017 12:17 pm
narendra modi, benjamin netanyahu, india israel relations, modi netanyahu meet, india news Narendra Modi with Benjamin Netanyahu at the Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday. Reuters

IT’S PRIME Minister Narendra Modi’s 66th visit abroad in three years. But it’s a historic first by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel. Less than 11 years after Modi visited Israel as Gujarat Chief Minister in October 2006, he arrived at the Ben Gurion International Airport here on Tuesday, to a grand official ceremony and warm embrace by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described him as “my friend” at least three times during the 30-minute welcome at the airport.

Wearing a white bandhgala, in 35 degrees Celsius, Modi greeted Netanyahu with a “Shalom” as he landed at the tarmac shortly after 4 pm (local time). Netanyahu shook his hand, and told him, “What a great day, what a historic day. Welcome my friend.” The two leaders then embraced each other. Minutes later, after the ceremonial guard of honour, Netanyahu said, “Aapka swagat hai, mere dost”, as Modi smiled.

“Prime Minister Modi, we have been waiting for you for a long time, for almost 70 years, in fact. Because yours is truly a historic visit,” he said, “We receive you with open arms. We love India. We admire your history, culture, democracy, commitment to progress. We view you as kindred spirits in our common quest to provide a better future for our people and for our world.”

Netanyahu recalled how Modi told him, at their first meeting in New York in September 2014, that the “sky is the limit”. But, he said, with space cooperation now, even the sky was not the limit.

“When I met you in New York three years ago, we agreed to break down the remaining walls between India and Israel. We shook each other’s hands and agreed to forge a historic partnership for partners,” said Netanyahu.

Responding to the welcome, Modi said: “It is my singular honour to be the first ever Indian Prime Minister to undertake this groundbreaking visit to Israel… My visit celebrates the strength of centuries-old links between our societies. Based on the bonds, our partnership has maintained a strong and sustained upswing since the establishment of full diplomatic relations 25 years ago.

“The people of Israel have built a nation on democratic principles. They have nurtured it with hard work, grit and spirit of innovation. You have marched on, regardless of adversity, and converted challenges into opportunity. India applauds your achievements,” he said.

Modi then recalled that 41 years ago, on July 4, in Operation Entebbe, “Bibi” lost his elder brother “Yoni”, who died while saving the lives of Israeli hostages. Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu was an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) officer who commanded the elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, during Operation Entebbe — an operation to rescue hostages held at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976. The mission was successful, with 102 of the 106 hostages rescued, but “Yoni” was killed in action — the only IDF fatality during the operation.

After their brief speeches, Netanyahu introduced top Cabinet ministers who were at the airport to receive Modi.

From the airport, Modi headed to Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm, at Mishmar Hashiva, accompanied by Netanyahu and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. He also visited Yad Vashem, the Hall of Names, attended the memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, toured the Children’s Memorial and signed the Yad Vashem Guest Book.

Later in the evening, at the Prime Minister’s residence, before they went for a small, private dinner, Modi brought up the issue of terrorism. “Yad Vashem is a reminder of the unspeakable evil inflicted generations ago. It is also a tribute to your unbreakable spirit… to rise above the depths of tragedy, overcome hatred and forge ahead to build a vibrant democratic nation. Yad Vashem tells us that those who believe in humanity and civilised values must come together and defend it at all costs. As such, we must resolutely oppose the evils of terrorism, radicalism and violence that plague our time,” he said.

Earlier too, at the airport, Modi said, “Alongside building a partnership for shared economic prosperity, we are also cooperating to secure our societies against common threats such as terrorism.”

Netanyahu also said the two countries face the “common challenge of terrorism”, and both must stand together to fight it. “We both want things to change overnight, and we are both tireless reformers,” he said.

The leaders hugged each other at least four times through the day, and addressed each other as “my friend” several times, with Netanyahu even slipping to an informal “my friend Narendra” in his remarks before they went for dinner.

While India and Israel have deep ties in defence and security, the two sides are keen to project a broader relationship during Modi’s three-day visit — they are going to showcase their “strategic partnership” in agriculture and water, innovation and science and technology, and space.

Indian ambassador to Israel, Pavan Kapoor, told The Indian Express that the catch phrase for the visit is “defence to development”. The two leaders will hold bilateral talks at the historic King David Hotel on Wednesday.

Rebecca Zeffert, Founder and Executive Director of Israel-Asia Centre in Jerusalem, told The Indian Express: “Israel has been eagerly awaiting the visit by Prime Minister Modi for the past two years. So his visit to Israel in the year marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries is a historic one, and will serve to further ramp up and upgrade the already strong ties that exist between the two countries.”

She said an example of this is the elaborate roadmap of commitments prepared by the two countries to strengthen ties on multiple fronts — including economy, tourism, R&D, innovation, education and culture. Last week, the Israeli cabinet approved a 280 million shekel plan — higher than any previous sums allocated in equivalent programmes (including China) — to support bilateral initiatives as part of this roadmap. Numerous ministries played a role in penning this programme, which includes increasing Israeli exports to India, furthering cooperation in water and agriculture, academic exchange programmes, boosting tourism and investment between the two countries.

“One of the agreements we are expecting the two countries to sign during the visit includes a joint innovation fund of $40 million. Israel also plans to encourage more Indian tourists to visit Israel through a plan to film a Bollywood movie in Israel,” she said.

“A great deal of emphasis will be placed during this visit on collaboration in agricultural and water technology, and specifically on application of Israeli water technologies to meet some of India’s most pressing water challenges — such as initiatives to clean up the Ganga river,” she said.

Former advisor to Netanyahu, Caroline Glick, who is a senior journalist with Jerusalem Post, told The Indian Express, “We are very excited that Prime Minister Modi is coming this week. His election was a turning point in India-Israel relations… We understand that Modi is a true friend of Israel and understands that our economies are compatible. Israel and India are uniquely situated to work together to advance common aims in everything, from clear water technologies to drone technologies, from agriculture to aerospace, there is effectively no area of human endeavor where our economic interests and comparative advantages are not complementary.”

Zeffert said that India and Israel share many commonalities. “Both people have long histories spanning thousands of years, and deeply entrenched traditions, but emerged as modern states just a year apart from each other. They are both democracies in rough neighbourhoods, and have had to deal with seemingly insurmountable challenges. However, despite these commonalities, there is still much work to be done to address some of the challenges that often exist in doing business together and building tangible partnerships. While this visit will focus on heightening collaboration in numerous areas — including water and agricultural technology, trade, innovation and R&D, tourism, culture and education — there is still a long way to go in bringing these two countries closer together, familiarising current and future leaders across different sectors with each others’ cultures, customs, values, challenges and needs, and bridging these gaps in people-to-people understanding.”

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  1. J
    Jyothi Jonnala
    Jul 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm
    Convergence of History!
    Reply
    1. A
      Ag
      Jul 5, 2017 at 1:56 pm
      Modi terrorist hugger never hug his wife like to hug only male foreign minister here he is hugging another terrorist country minister never hug his brother in his life both terrorist Israel the land grabber cannot wipe Palestine and India cannot control tiny Kashmir here they r just showing off waste of time and money of poor indian tax payer
      Reply
      1. R
        rick patel
        Jul 5, 2017 at 1:54 pm
        Israel is the biggest weapons supplier to China, if there is a war china will be using israel weapons against us anyahu and Modi are hugging but the fact is China is threatening India with a war and India needs the PM back home to help in the crisis,But our feku PM is enjoying his holidays worldwide instead of being in India at such a crisis situation.
        Reply
        1. B
          Bhadrapati Devi
          Jul 5, 2017 at 2:40 pm
          You are suffering from Modiphobia. Do your comment connect between the beginning and end?
          Reply
        2. S
          S
          Jul 5, 2017 at 1:25 pm
          Modi's mpst important point when he is abroad is about terrorism. What is interesting is both Modi and Bibi share similar backgrounds. W hile one has attacked the Arabs by Jewish settlements and bomb attacks with heavy collateral damage of innocents rings bell on what happened in Gujarat in 2002. The other issue top of Modi's mind is defence equipment from Israel. The technologies on agriculture and water conservation which will help the poor is only second to a high defence angle. Israel has converted desert land to thriving agricultural produce and with Gujarat and rajastan having acres and acres of such dry land should be able to benefit from exchanges with Israel. The Bhai Bhai welcome is no doubt very high in rhetoric as most nations do not give the same type of friendliness . Perhaps US is the only big country influenced by rich and powerful Jews, cannot afford to ignore Israel. But one has to wait and see the effect on Palestine and other Muslim and Arab nations.
          Reply
          1. R
            R.Ray
            Jul 5, 2017 at 12:53 pm
            Dear editor I ask u simple question, why r u afraid to report ongoing rhythmical religious riots in west Bengal. When you were very aggressive against modi in Gujarat. Do u know about recent riots in Purulia, Dhulagar etc. Be a true secular. Instead of pseudosecular like Suman Dey.
            Reply
            1. B
              Bhadrapati Devi
              Jul 5, 2017 at 12:29 pm
              India and Israel relationship should be strengthen because we are victim of terrorism and sharing common interest.
              Reply
              1. H
                HG KETKAR
                Jul 5, 2017 at 12:23 pm
                It is a great visit of an Indian Prime Minister to Israel, which can be defined as Ïs Real" or Ïs Royal" country of the world. If we see back history, in spite of our not recognising Israel earlier, Israel always continue to support India against Pakistan and China, whenever India was in trouble. In fact, Israel is the only country which can be termed as true friend, without any calculating politics. India should enhance its relationship with Israel, then only, India can develop. After returning from Israel, The PM has to face opposition from Congress, CPM and others for not visiting Ramallah, the Palestine state. But, the PM should react cautiously and maintain relationship at par with Israel, Russia, an, Singapore. USA and China are very dangerous country, which can backfire at any situation.
                Reply
                1. M
                  Michelle:Vedic:human
                  Jul 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm
                  Hogs of ISLAMMED ,---Mohammad rapist by birth,----of ISLAMMED to truth,---illegality created by the MULLASS Pe-rvert of 6yr old AISHA,----follower of MUZZIE rap-ist manifested in Quran,----terrorist by faith,----had only one way to be ISLAMMED,---legally by pigs fats and dumped with pigs of all in one,---MUZZIES not tomorrow but today,----forget doubts but for sure legally,-----Jai hind.
                  Reply
                  1. O
                    Oneind
                    Jul 5, 2017 at 5:31 pm
                    You r illegal from birth definitely. go and ask to your mom (pros utioner) who is your father. definitely u will shock .and next time don't dare to write or speek about any prophet peace be apon there because u don't have any right because u r illegal. .....
                    Reply
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