Why India’s Prime Minister Visited Ramallah

Feb. 21 2018

In the past few years, relations between Israel and India have grown increasingly warm, a fact for which the countries’ respective prime ministers, Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi, can take substantial credit. Nonetheless, Modi paid a visit to Ramallah on February 10, where he described Yasir Arafat as a “friend of the Indian people.” Vinay Kaura sees in the visit not any evidence of wavering commitment to the alliance with Israel but a new approach to relations with the Palestinians that he terms “de-hyphenation” and which he believes will ultimately benefit the Jewish state:

De-hyphenation of “Israel-Palestine” is a politically shrewd strategy: rather than treating the two entities as one unit, the Modi government has decided to pursue independent relationships with each, thereby giving India greater maneuvering space to maintain the image of continuing to provide moral support for the Palestinian cause while simultaneously engaging in a military and strategic partnership with the Jewish state. That is why Modi did not go to Israel during this landmark visit [to Ramallah]. Last year, he became the first Indian prime minister to come to Israel on a standalone visit—but chose not to travel to Ramallah. . . . .

India has come a long way in forming a strategic partnership with Israel. Before and after India’s independence, prominent nationalist figures viewed Jewish aspirations for a national home in Palestine through an anti-imperialist prism. It was felt that the Zionists were relying on imperialist powers to establish a theocratic state at the expense of the Palestinians. . . .

Contrary to what is often erroneously believed, India’s support for the Palestinian Authority (PA) has not been wholly dictated by considerations of domestic politics—i.e., its perceived reluctance to alienate its considerable Muslim minority. New Delhi’s Palestinian policy has also been a critical component of India’s energy diplomacy with oil-rich Gulf countries and India’s Kashmir dispute with Pakistan, as well as for ensuring the safety of the Indian diaspora in the Gulf countries.

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More about: India, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Palestinian Authority, Yasir Arafat

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war