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Benjamin Netanyahu plans to visit India ahead of repeat polls to boost his campaign

By PTI
|

Jerusalem, Jul 8: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who failed to form a coalition after the April polls, plans to visit India ahead of the repeat elections in September hoping that a photo-op with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will boost his campaign, according to an opinion piece in a leading Israeli daily.

Israeli lawmakers in May voted 74-45 in favour of dissolving the 21st Knesset (Parliament) and hold an unprecedented repeat general elections on September 17 after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government. 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', over the weekend argued that Netanyahu 'enlisted' (or recruited) three heads of world and regional powers to help boost his campaign before the April 9 elections. "Heading the group was the buddy, Donald Trump.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

In the most transparent manner, from on high, the White House organised a palsy-walsy visit for Netanyahu, whose highlight was when the President signed a document recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. That was on March 25 and was Trump's modest contribution," Verter wrote.

"Pleased as punch, Netanyahu returned to Israel, and on April 1, the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, arrived for a visit. Then, a week before Election Day, Netanyahu flew off to Moscow, where President Vladimir Putin organised a spectacular, Hollywood-style ceremony in his honour, marking the discovery of the remains of long-missing Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel", he added.

However, after the Knesset was disbanded and the country hurtled into another election campaign, Verter said that "the Prime Minister's Bureau dusted off the globe. Where haven't we visited, who haven't we met with?" "Only great powers do it for him. And only two haven't yet had the privilege of offering Netanyahu photo-ops for an election campaign: China and India," he pointed out.

Israeli PM thanks PM Modi for India's vote against Palestinian group

"Netanyahu, who's fighting for his personal survival ahead of a hearing before the state prosecution on several cases, must find a way to bounce back," the columnist noted. He said that China was not an option as it is a "tough country, with clear rules".

In view of all this, the PM Office in Jerusalem is said to have reached out to their counterparts in New Delhi and requested for an invitation. "Prime Minister Modi is a true friend. A friend indeed for a friend in need.

The Indians checked their diary and got back to the Israelis with a suggestion for an August visit. Not happening, came the answer - but we'd be happy to come in the first week of September (about 10 days before the election). It's a good bet that Modi and his aides know why the bride's in a rush to go under the chuppah, but, what are friends for?" the columnist wrote.

Netanyahu will land, meet, have his picture taken, market the visit as "very important" for Israel's security and economic interests, complain that the leftist media ignored the trip and upload something to Facebook, the journalist wrote.

Informed sources told PTI that a day for Netanyahu's trip to New Delhi is indeed being worked out and the Indian PMO had suggested the week of August 25 for the visit. The Israeli side prefers a September visit which would be closer to the general elections on the 17th of that month, they said. 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 leaders 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. Opinion polls carried out by Channel 12 and 13 on Wednesday showed that Netanyahu's ruling Likud party led right bloc will fall short of the 61 mark by four to five seats, which would mean that he would again require support of his one-time close confidante Avigdor Lieberman.

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