Three Reasons Why: PM Modi's pictures are showing up in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's election campaign

Modi is not the only leader whose photographs with Netanyahu are being flaunted in his re-election bid. But he is certainly the most special.

 |  3-minute read |   31-07-2019
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A casual, or at least, made to look casual stroll by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, on the Olga Beach in Israel made internet waves in July 2017.

mod-690_073019054155.jpgThe tides of political fortune: Modi and Bibi's friendship has been most picturesque. (Photo: Reuters)

We suspect ‘made to look’ because for those who could have missed the seaside stroll, the two leaders later publicly shared the photo with Netanyahu ‘gifting’ the picture that captured the ‘shared experience’ to PM Modi.

This bonhomie is hard to miss because the two together are working hard to ensure that you simply can't miss seeing them. The underlying assumption is — it helps each of their domestic politics, so why not?

photo-690_073019054615.jpgNever lose a moment in time! (Photo: Twitter/@netanyahu)

In the latest episode though, Netanyahu has gone over the top, quite literally, by putting up a photo which shows him alongside Modi on banners that are hanging from his Likud party headquarters in Israel’s Tel Aviv.

Yes, Modi is not the only leader whose photographs with Netanyahu are hanging from the building. US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, too are among the Israeli leader's ‘close friends’.

modi-690_073019054303.jpgTime to Vote! Narendra Modi with Benjamin Netanyahu on the Likud party's publicity material. (Photo: Twitter)

But Bibi, as Netanhayu is also called, has taken this a step further with Modi.

Reports suggest that Netanyahu has also apparently had the Modi government invite him to India for a visit that seems to have no clear agenda or any pressing issues to discuss. This is one diplomatic friendship that both friends are very diplomatically committed to. So, Bibi would be in India, on an invite his country purportedly sought, on September 9 — just days ahead of the September 17 polls, in the run-up to which the Israeli PM is making all his valuable friendships very public.

Having been the longest-serving Prime Minister of Israel, surpassing the country’s first premier, David Ben-Gurion, Bibi is now faced with a tough battle on September 17.

Opinion polls show fortunes flagging for Bibi’s Likud party.

In May, Israeli legislators voted 74-45 in favour of dissolving the 21st Knesset (Parliament) and holding re-elections on September 17, after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government following the April 9 polls.

Much like Modi used the Madison Square Garden to appear a global leader even while addressing an NRI audience, Netanyahu will use the photo-ops garnered during his September visit to establish himself as a strong leader for his local audience.

There are more reasons than one for Bibi to opt for India to achieve the feat.

Both nations boast a democratic system in a neighbourhood where democracy is frail — or non-existent.

The relationship between the two nations initially deepened purely due to the interest Israeli youth showed in Indian culture and history. But India remained markedly hesitant in opening its arms to Israel, fearing it would jeopardise New Delhi’s diplomatic relations with the Arab world against the backdrop of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

freinds-690_073019054816.jpgYe dosti: Both leaders know this friendship is loved by their respective domestic audiences. (Photo: Reuters)

However, as Egypt and Israel reached a peace accord, India finally found the space to move towards Israel.

And the most dramatic turn in ties took place at the political-diplomatic level with Modi’s coming to power in India. Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Israel in July 2017. Netanyahu reciprocated by visiting India in January 2018.

Israeli defence firms see India as a major market now. The message Netanyahu seems to trying to send to his domestic audience — which includes Israelis of Indian origin as well — via India is that the country under him is on the road to building strong business and cultural ties with global leaders and with nations that once determinedly turned away from Israel.

His win means good for India. Come September, and India will certainly extend a grand welcome to Netanyahu, alongside proving opportunities for more photos.

Also read: USA, Pakistan and the F-16: What lies behind US's $125 mn military sales to Pakistan to monitor F-16s

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