Indian PM Modi and Israeli PM Netanyahu Begin a Beautiful Friendship

After Meeting Indian PM, Mumbai Terror Survivor to Accompany Netanyahu to India, Israel’s prime minister invites the boy to join him on upcoming visit

By Staff   |   July 4, 2017

JERUSALEM—Eleven-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, who survived a November 2008 terrorist massacre in Mumbai that took the lives of his parents, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg accepted an invitation today to travel to India with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel after the boy’s emotion-filled meeting with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi of India, now on a historic three-day trip to Israel.

“I grew up there in Mumbai,” Moshe, speaking in English, told the dignitaries. “This is my home. I hope I will be able to visit Mumbai, and when I get older, live there. I will be the director of our Chabad House.”

The small crowd broke into cheers when he completed his speech with, “Dear Mr. Modi, I love you and your people in India.”

Moshe now lives in Afula, Israel, with his maternal grandparents, Rabbi Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, who along with his paternal grandparents, Rabbi Nachman and Fraida Holtzberg, attended the meeting with the Indian premier. Samuel, 53, who was granted honorary Israeli citizenship in 2008 and frequently travels from her home in Jerusalem to visit Moshe, received special thanks today from Moshe and from Prime Minister Modi as well.

Kozlovsky said he appreciated that the prime minister met with Moshe and recognized the sacrifice of his parents, and that he looked forward to welcoming Netanyahu during his visit to Mumbai with Moshe.

“It is our hope that this historical visit and meeting will create awareness of the memorial museum project, and the vision of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—for a better, more peaceful world.”

II The Indian premier’s visit marks a diplomatic coming of age for India and Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu with Narendra Modi in Tel Aviv, July 5

By Tunku Varadarajan

July 5, 2017

When you hear the prime minister of one country tell his counterpart from another that their nations’ friendship is “a marriage made in heaven, but we are implementing it here on earth,” your first reaction is likely to be: Get this man a new speechwriter! Yet, had you been following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Israel visit, which concludes Thursday, you’d understand that those words, spoken by Benjamin Netanyahu, were euphoric and not cloying.

Mr. Modi’s visit to Israel is the first by an Indian prime minister in the 70 years since India’s independence. The countries have had diplomatic relations for a quarter-century, but no Indian premier considered visiting Israel for fear of upsetting India’s Arab allies—and thereby, its supply of oil—as well as its sizable Muslim population, for whose political leaders Israel has always been anathema.
India also turned its back on Israel as a result of its commitment to a dishonest “anti-colonial” foreign policy—that of nonalignment—under which it was kosher to berate the Israelis for being colonial interlopers on Palestinian land.

In truth, India and Israel have long done clandestine business. Israel helped India with weapons in its war with Pakistan in 1965. India returned the favor in 1967 when it gave Israel spare parts for its Ouragan and Mystere fighter planes.

Mossad and RAW—the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s intelligence agency—worked closely for many years before diplomatic relations began in 1992. Israel played a key role in helping India win its war with Pakistan in 1999, with its supply of Searcher-1 drones. These enabled India to detect, and destroy by air, Pakistani troops entrenched in mountain fastnesses.

India has reciprocated diplomatically, particularly since the election of Mr. Modi’s nationalist BJP government in 2014. New Delhi has abstained in recent United Nations resolutions critical of Israel, remarkable for a nation that has had a near-perfect record of anti-Israeli voting at the U.N. There is every indication, now, that these abstentions will turn into votes in Israel’s favor.

The Israelis see Mr. Modi’s BJP as an Indian version of the Likud Party, and they are not wrong. The parties and their leaders share a determination to yield nothing to Islamist terrorism. The uninhibited warmth between the two prime ministers has been on full display on Mr. Modi’s visit—as of this writing, the two men have embraced each other five times in 24 hours. A new fast-growing breed of chrysanthemum was unveiled by Israeli agronomists. Its name? The Modi.

The florid stuff aside, this visit marks a diplomatic coming of age for India and Israel: India because it has now shed the last of its dead skin of nonalignment. Remarkably, India is the only major power that can claim to have excellent relations with every country in the Middle East.

With the global surplus in oil and gas, India no longer fears an Arab backlash to its embrace of Israel. After the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the Saudis had ordered India to shut down Israel’s Consulate in Bombay or face a cutoff of oil. Indira Gandhi refused, and the country had to resort to a deal with the shah’s Iran that involved paying huge sums into a slush fund for a senior member of the shah’s household.

The present Indian government is—to put it delicately—less mindful of the Indian Muslim vote-bank than its Congress Party predecessors were. There is still leftist Indian opposition to Israel, but these are irrelevant groups that also reject the strengthening of ties with the U.S.

This is also a defining moment for Israel, and there is a reason why Mr. Netanyahu’s entire cabinet turned out to welcome Mr. Modi at the Tel Aviv airport on July 4. The world’s biggest democracy is now unabashedly, unequivocally in Israel’s corner.

Israel’s ties with India, unlike with China, aren’t purely transactional. Messrs. Modi and Netanyahu have formally acknowledged a civilizational bond between two peoples that share many of the same values and all of the same fears. India and Israel are allies for the long haul.

Mr. Varadarajan is a fellow in journalism at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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