Narendra Modi visits Tel Aviv: Here’s how leading Israeli newspapers covered the historic trip


When leading Israeli daily The Marker ran an article covering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tel Aviv with the headline: “Wake up: the most important PM of the world is coming”, the importance and influence that India pulled over Israel becomes quite evident.
Leading Israeli papers have extensively covered Modi’s trip. From going down memory lane to cautioning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli newspapers have examined every aspect of Tel Aviv’s relations with New Delhi.
When Modi landed in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, he was warmly received by Netanyahu, who made a speech. While remembering Modi’s comments, Netanyahu said that when it comes to India-Israel relations, the sky is the limit. Netanyahu’s insistence on accompanying Modi almost everywhere throughout his tour and his unprecedented excitement to receive his “friend” is becoming a problem for Israel.
The Jerusalem Post
An article in The Jerusalem Post cautioned Netanyahu to not build up impossible expectations during Modi’s visit. It referred to Netanyahu’s speech where he said that Israel was courted by many other nations, including China. The opinion piece in The Jerusalem Post asked Netanyahu to take a reality check and instead focus on local issues. “The ability and resources of a country of only 8.3 million people, with plenty of its own challenges to deal with, can only go so far,” the article said.
In fact, The Jerusalem Post created a separate “Modi’s Visit” space on their front page for comprehensive coverage. From basic reports to analysis and opinion, space held a wide variety of pieces.
Building up on India’s ambassador to Israel Pavan Kumar’s statement that this is the first formal coming out party for India-Israel relations, Sandeep Unnithan wrote in The Jerusalem Post: “Unlike past prime ministers, Modi has no inhibitions on openly expressing his admiration for Israel’s achievements.”
Israeli papers are celebrating the emergence of the close bilateral ties between the two countries under India’s National Democratic Alliance-led (NDA) government. “The relationship between the two was intense but stayed in the closet out of fear of upsetting India’s Arab allies,” the article said.
Completely sidelining the Congress and its rule in India, Israeli papers were quick to point out that first ever visit by an Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, took place in 2003 when BJP-led NDA regime was in power with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister.
Israel media seems to believe that, unlike its predecessors, BJP is not held hostage to an Islamist or leftist agenda, and apart from communists and the Islamists, no one else had a problem with Modi skipping Palestine during the Israel trip.
An article in The Jerusalem Post castigated the Congress for equating Israel with Pakistan as a nation-state based on religion and opposing its very existence. Madhu Purnima Kishwar even equated Pakistan-backed terrorist organisations in Kashmir with Hamas in Israel.
The Haaretz also consolidated all pieces related to Modi’s visit to Israel in a single space on its front page. The top story is titled, “A Hug And a Cover-up” and the media house has also been running a live blog for the trip.
Ecstatic over Modi skipping Palestine during the trip, an opinion piece even justified why Modi could afford to do so. Although it pointed out that India hasn’t abandoned the Palestinian cause, it claimed that India’s has signalled a new strategy of de-hyphenating the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Listing the various ways Israel has and will continue to help India, the article said that New Delhi and Beijing have marginalised the Palestinians and that India had a lot to gain from its friendship with Israel. As Modi stated on Tuesday, India counts Tel Aviv in its most important development partners.
However, columnist David Rosenberg pointed out that India considers Israel as a valuable partner because of the technology and innovation that Israel can offer. “India’s first problem is national security and its cold war with Pakistan, and for years Israel and India have had close defense ties. But these are based on technology, not raw power, i.e., Israel doesn’t sell tanks and planes, but provides advice on counter-terrorism,” he writes.
The Times of Israel
Unlike its rivals, The Times of Israel did not feature Modi’s visit as one of its top stories. The only mention of Modi’s “unprecedented” trip is an article titled “Netanyahu turns to Yoga in illustrating warm ties with India”. It is a basic report compiled by the staff on how their prime minister used some Yoga know-how during his meeting with Modi.
The only other slightly featured article is in fact a blog which traces the shared history of Hindu-Jewish ties. “While the visit has many dimensions, the most important aspect is not the joint development of arms, not the prospect of free trade agreement but rather the shared values and historical ties,” the blog reads.
The rest of the opinion and analysis pieces are quietly tucked away.
The strange thing about media coverage of Modi’s trip is the deafening silence from the Arab countries.
As this The Hindustan Times report points out, “No Arab State has voiced any displeasure, not publicly, and not even through diplomatic back-channels.”
West Asian diplomats have shrugged off the trip as a matter of realpolitik. One of the reasons for the silence is considered to be an acceptance that India and Israel have much in common, including their enemies, in the shape of Islamist terrorism.
Apart from basic reports, Al-Arabiya, Arab News and Khaleej Times have not covered Modi’s trip.


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