Updated 12:01 pm, Aug 08, 2019

Israel readies red carpet for first visit by any Indian PM | SNE

By  The Times Group .
Jul 04, 2017

israel-pm-modi

The Modi-Netanyahu summit “will be like no other“. For starters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get a “unique“ welcome ceremony at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport when he lands on Tuesday afternoon, Israeli officials said. The reception party at the airport will include heads of major religious sects.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu will not only receive Modi at the airport but, in a departure from normal practice, accompany Modi throughout his three days in the country. Except for the meetings with the leader of the opposition, and possibly the president, Modi and Netanyahu will be together all through. Israeli officials said this kind of reception is reserved for the US president and the Pope.

Modi underscored the significance of his visit. “I will be visiting Israel on 4-6 July upon invitation of PM Benjamin Netanyahu. As the first Indian PM to do so, I am greatly looking forward to this unprecedented visit that will bring our two countries and people closer. This year, India and Israel are marking 25 years of our diplomatic relations,“ he said.On the eve of his visit, both sides reaffirmed their support to the fight against terrorism. As India and Israel reaffirmed their support for anti-terror fight ahead of the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel beginning July 4, PM Narendra modi said in an interview to Israeli newspaper `Israel Hayom’ on Monday: “Terrorism is a global menace. India and Israel are not immune to it either. We are in full agreement that elements which perpetrate violence on innocent people should not be allowed to flourish. India and Israel could cooperate even more closely and complement each other’s efforts to fight with the menace of terrorism.“

At the Israeli foreign office on Monday, Mark Sofer, director for Asia-Pacific and the person in charge of organising the Modi visit, categorically said that unlike many countries, Israel was very open in its support to India on fighting terrorism. “Israel has supported India both in its general battle against terrorism, as well as the groups operating out of Pakistan.Unlike many countries, we have not hesitated to openly support India on this. We find no difference between LeT and Hamas. We both share the struggle against the forces of evil,“ he said.

But Modi remained clear that despite his views on Israel, he was committed to the Indian view of a two-state solution. Responding to a question whether India would move its embassy to Jerusalem, he said, “We will take a decision on that after both sides have come to an agreement on Jerusalem.“

King David Hotel will be the venue for the Modi-Netanyahu summit and also be Modi’s home for three days.One of the owners of the hotel is Michael Federmann, head of Elbit Systems, a major defence supplier with a large presence in India.

This is also the hotel where Donald Trump stayed, but unlike the US president, Modi is perfectly okay with a red carpet welcome.

Modi will be in the same suite that Trump stayed in. The hotel is turning itself out to find Indian vegetarian dishes to tempt Narendra Modi’s palate.

The BJP’s point person in Israel is a restaurant owner, Rina Pushkarna, and she has been roped in to help with the food. No meat, not even the kosher variety, will sully the kitchens while Modi is around.

An exception has been made for fish, which is what Modi’s delegation will have to content themselves with.

Chai, of the Indian variety, will be served. The Jerusalem Post reported that when President Pranab Mukherjee came here, the hotel had to scramble for something they hadn’t seen in years ­­ a tea cosy.

The same tea cosy will be produced with a flourish for Modi’s tea service.

The bar has disappeared from the hotel, or rather, it has been moved out. Instead, it will hold the media centre, for the Indian media, which no longer travels with the Prime Minister.

For the first time as well, social media outreach will be an integral part of the two leaders’ interactions.

While officials mysteriously spoke of a “surprise“, apparently the two leaders may do either a Facebook Live chat or a Periscope chat with their people.

Modi certainly prefers to speak directly to the people, instead of using traditional media. Therefore, the visit will have an unusually large integration with new media technologies.

Modi will not, unlike Trump, visit the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall) in the old city.Asked by an Israeli interviewer, he said, “I am sure I will visit Jerusalem. Elements of my visit and its programme are being so arranged so that we can focus to taking forward our partnership with Israel in all spheres, including technology and innovation links, agriculture and efficient resource use.“

On Thursday , the two leaders will take a helicopter to Haifa where Modi will unveil a plaque in memory of Indian soldiers.

On the way back, they will stop for a drink at the beach -from a mobile desalination plant. In keeping with the ambient temperatures in Israel these days, officials will make one addition -some ice cubes to chill the water.

PM to fly a longer route to Jerusalem

Air India One flying PM Modi from Delhi to Jerusalem is likely to take the longer route commercial flights do as they can’t fly over countries like Saudi Arabia while operating to and from Israel. As a result, what should be a direct five-hour flight could be over a seven-hour journey. Last month, US President Donald Trump’s Air Force One was possibly the first plane to fly direct from Riyadh to Jerusalem.

Israel is not recognised by a majority of the Islamic and Gulf countries that lie between it and India. At present Israel’s El Al Airlines flies between Tel Aviv and Mumbai but it can’t overfly some countries on the direct flight path like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The El Al flight taking off from Tel Aviv for Mumbai goes to the southern tip of the country, flies over the Red Sea completely avoiding Saudi and then turns east from the “horn of Africa“ that juts into the Arabian Sea straight to its destination. As a result, the distance of 4,057km between Mumbai and Tel Aviv is covered in nearly eight hours, almost the time taken to fly the 6,700-km-apart Delhi and London. 

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