Status quo triumphs in Tel Aviv

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Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu , Israel Prime Minister
Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu , Israel Prime Minister

The somewhat unexpected comfort with which Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu has won in Israel, who turned even further Right during the close of his campaign, may have come as a final blow to a two­ state solution to the Palestine problem but must have gladdened the hearts of votaries of closer Tel Aviv­New Delhi ties.

The electoral verdict establishes the growing control of the status quo in Tel Aviv and comes as a shock to even President Barack Obama who has in recent months been vocal against increased Isareli onslaught in Palestine. His polarising campaign raised misgivings, but it has worked. The vote reflects the increasingly militant mood of the Israeli society as a whole. As far as TelAviv­New Delhi interfaace is concerned, it has been described as a secret love affair.

 From 1991 to till date, India’s tryst with Israel has grown more substantive, with military ties growing at a pace which makes Israel India’s second largest defence partner after Russia. The change has neatly if surreptitiously changed India’s position on the creation of the state of Israel which had been affected by its own partition on religious lines. Mahatma Gandhi opposed the creation of Israel as he was against the creation of countries based on religion. Although India did not subscribe to the partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission in the United Nations in 1949, it did recognise Israel as a nation in 1950. In a statement in 1954,

 Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said he would not “be a party to a resolution which stated that the creation of Israel was a violation of international law”. In contrast to the official Indian standpoint which had a vast degree of support in the country, various Hindu nationalist organisations supported the creation of Israel. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar supported Israel when it was created and viewed its creation as ‘joyous’ and condemned India’s vote at the UN against Israel. India established official relations with Israel in 1991, although informal ties had long existed previously, involving such figures as Moshe Dayan, who visited India secretly during Morarji Desai’s stewardship. It is common knowledge that Israel provided India with crucial information during its multiple wars.

 After decades of non­aligned and pro­Arab policy, India formally established relations with Israel in January 1992 and ties between the two nations have flourished since, primarily due to certain strategic interests and security threats. Under the present dispensation, India is set to emerge as the most pro ­Israel nation, ahead even of the United States. India’s condemnations of Israeli military actions in Palestinian territories are likely to become more muted by time.

 In 2000, Jaswant Singh became the first Indian foreign minister to visit Israel, following which the two countries set up a joint anti­terror commission. In 2003, Ariel Sharon was the first Israeli prime minister to visit India. He was welcomed by the BJP­ led NDA coalition. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) condemned the huge din of protest against Sharon, with Ram Madhav asserting: “The entire world acknowledges that Israel has effectively and ruthlessly countered terror in the Middle East. Since India and Israel are both fighting a war against terrorism, therefore, we should learn a lesson or two from them. We need to have close co­operation with them in thisfield.”

 Narendra Modi has also visited Israel while he was Gujarat CM. In May 2014, Israeli PMBenjamin Netanyahu personally congratulated Narendra Modi. Also, Modi met his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly during his US visit in 2014. This was a first ever public meeting of Israeli and Indian PMs. And in same year on the occasion of Hanukkah festival Indian PM Modi greeted his Israeli counterpart in Hebrew language on Twitter ­­ the Israeli PM replied in Hindi. Later last year, Indian home minister Rajnath Singh visited Israel to learn about its border security arrangements. During his tour he also met Israeli PM Netnyahu. In the same year, Israeli ex­president Shimon Peres visited India.

 Israel was one of the selected few nations, a group that also included France and Russia, that did not condemn India’s 1998 Pokhran­II nuclear tests. Due to the great importance of maritime trade to the Israeli economy, it thus sees the potential of establishing a logistical infrastructure in the Indian Ocean with the help of the Indian Navy. In 2000, Israeli submarines reportedly conducted test launches of cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in the waters of the Indian Ocean, off the Sri Lankan coast.

 Media reports in 2003 revealed that the Indian external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had clandestine links with the Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency. When RAW was founded in 1968 by Rameshwar Nath Kao, he was advised by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to cultivate links with Mossad. With Netanyahu’s re­election and the dilution of India’s pro­Palestine lobby, such ties are bound to grow.

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