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Modi at Home in Israel, Herzog Out, Eilat Heating Up


Indian PM Affirms ‘Kinship’ with Israel, Where he Feels ‘at Home’

Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, July 5th 2017

Recap:

Marking 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel is the first by an Indian head of state [1]. “Israel is a real friend and I have really felt that feeling of kinship. I feel absolutely at home here,” said Modi.

The Context:

  • New Delhi did not recognize the Jewish state until two years after its establishment and has long embraced the Palestinian cause [2]. In 1992, when diplomatic ties were established, bilateral trade stood at $200 million whereas in 2017, trade hovers at around $5 billion. India accounts for 41% of Israel’s arms sales [3].

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined Modi for his entire 3-day visit to Israel – attention usually reserved only for American presidents [4]. Modi met the son of two Chabad emissaries who were killed in a November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai and addressed a crowd of Indian Israelis. 12,000 Indian nationals currently reside in Israel as well as 80,000 Israeli Jews with at least one parent of Indian origin.

  • Modi broke international protocol during his visit to Israel by not stopping in Ramallah to visit the Palestinian Authority [PA] as well. New Delhi explained the decision was intended to “de-hyphenate” its relationship with Israel and the PA [5].“

  • India has benefited greatly from Israeli agriculture technologies such as micro-irrigation and post-harvest management which have increased crop yields by up to 10 times with a 65% reduction in water, pesticide and fertilizer usage [6]. In 2015, Israeli water experts offered to help India clean the sacred but filthy Ganges River, which is plagued by extreme pollution levels from industrial waste, sewage, trash and human remains.

Conversation Points:

  • Do Israel and India make natural allies since both democracies reside in difficult neighborhoods?

  • Did successive Indian governments refrain from officially recognizing Israel diplomatically so as not to lose the support of India’s large Muslim minority?

  • Why don’t more countries seek to “de-hyphenate” their relationships between Israelis and Palestinians?

Isaac Herzog Ousted As Israel Opposition Leader

Forward, July 4th 2017

Recap:

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog lost his bid for re-election. The position will be filled by one of two candidates heading for a runoff next week.

The Context:

  • The Zionist Union holds 24 seats in the 120-seat Knesset and is the main opposition party to Netanyahu’s 66 seat coalition. Last year, Herzog and Netanyahu were in talks to join forces although discussions quickly faltered.

  • Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz topped the vote to succeed Herzog with Avi Gabbai coming in second. The 59% voter turnout was considerably higher than 2013's 52% turnout [7].

  • Peretz expressed gratitude to Herzog for “his massive achievement at the last Knesset elections” as well as his own intent to “ begin the campaign to replace the Netanyahu government [8]."

  • Herzog expects to remain a member of Knesset and run for president in 2021 [9]. The next general election will take place in 2019.

Conversation Points:

  • Was the higher turnout in these primaries an indicator of voter dismay with Herzog’s inability to counter Netanyahu’s coalition?

  • Would Herzog still be head of the Zionist Union had he successfully negotiated a place in Netanyahu’s coalition?

New Airport Expected to be a Game-Changer for Southern Israel’s Tourism Scene

Judy Lash Balint, JNS, June 29th 2017

Recap:

RyanAir, Monarch, Finnair, SAS and Wizz are among the airlines that will utilize Ramon airport which will replace the Eilat and Ovda airports and accommodate up to 2 million passengers annually.

The Context:

  • During the 2016 Winter season, Eilat saw nearly 77,000 passengers. 250,000 tourists are projected to arrive during the 2018 Winter season.

  • The Ramon airport will receive 50 weekly flights arriving from Europe and the United Kingdom. Its location will provide easy access to the Arava Valley, home to Timna Park’s notable prehistoric rock carvings and ancient copper mines.

Conversation Points:

  • Is heightened interest in Eilat attributed to the instability of other Middle Eastern vacation havens like Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh?

Notes:

  1. Indian PM Modi to arrive in Israel for ‘historic’ 3-day visit, Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, July 4th 2017

  2. Indian Premier, in Israel Visit, Seeks to Break Barriers in Trade and History, Isabel Kershner and Ellen Barry, New York Times, July 4th 2017

  3. PM Narendra Modi to land in Tel Aviv today: 5 reasons why Israel matters to India, Nivedita Dash, Haaretz, July 4th 2017

  4. Indian PM Modi to arrive in Israel for ‘historic’ 3-day visit, Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, July 4th 2017

  5. Ibid.

  6. PM Narendra Modi to land in Tel Aviv today: 5 reasons why Israel matters to India, Nivedita Dash, Haaretz, July 4th 2017

  7. Labor Party Votes to Oust Leader Herzog; Peretz, Gabbay Head to Runoff, Chaim Levinson, Haaretz, July 4th 2017

  8. Peretz and Gabay vie for Labor party leadership as Herzog is cast aside, Alexander J. Apfel, YNetNews, July 4th 2017

  9. Labor Party Votes to Oust Leader Herzog; Peretz, Gabbay Head to Runoff, Chaim Levinson, Haaretz, July 4th 2017


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