The Australian Who Convinced India to Give Up Its Hostility toward Israel

Jan. 27 2016

After India gained independence in 1947, its foreign policy centered on efforts to create and lead a bloc of “non-aligned nations” consisting mostly of former European colonies. Animus toward Israel inevitably resulted from this orientation, which was in practice anti-American and pro-Arab. Not until 1992 did the two countries established formal diplomatic ties. The breakthrough, which paved the way for what is now a warm relationship, came after over a decade of behind-the-scene efforts by the Australian Jewish businessman and community leader, Isi Leibler. Suzanne Rutland tells the story:

During a business trip in December 1981, Leibler managed to meet with Indira [Gandhi]. After a five-minute presentation, in which he spoke about Jewish concerns, she responded: “You are politically on dangerous ground here in India. I am under enormous pressure. It is not only Pakistan. I have a potential catastrophe with [Indian] Muslims.”

She then said: “Tell me why the American Jewish-dominated press hates me . . . [and why] Jews concentrate their spite on me as if I were their worst enemy.” She ended by saying that she felt that Israel “hated” her and stressed that she liked Jews. . . .

In November 1991, at the request of Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Leibler visited India in the hope of meeting with its prime minister, Narasimha Rao, who had been elected in June 1990. . . . They met on November 21, the first such meeting at this level with a Jewish leader and an Indian prime minister for many years. . . . Rao was much more positive than his predecessors.

After a second meeting a few months later, India announced that it was establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel.

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More about: Australia, India, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-India relations

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics