Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi is scheduled to visit Israel next month, but in a highly unusual move will skip the Palestinian Authority.
“This is going to be a purely bilateral visit. He is coming to visit us, and only us,” a senior official in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel on Thursday. “It’s a great achievement for us.”
Most, if not all, foreign dignitaries who visit Israel also visit the Palestinian Authority and meet with PA officials, either in Ramallah or in Bethlehem. Even leaders of Israel’s closest allies usually spend at least a few hours in Palestinian areas.
Modi, who is thought to be close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is due to arrive in Israel for his first-ever visit on July 4. During the three-day trip, he will meet with senior Israeli officials, hold a rally for Israelis of Indian descent and visit agricultural and technological sites.
“Prime Minister Modi is expected to visit Israel in July but details of his program are still being worked on by both sides,” the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv told The Times of Israel Thursday in an email. “An official announcement of the visit is expected later this month.”
On March 1, Netanyahu hosted India’s national security adviser, Ajit Dova, in his Jerusalem office to discuss Modi’s upcoming visit.
Relations between New Delhi and Jerusalem have been increasingly close diplomatically, militarily and economically. India has adjusted its traditional pro-Palestinian voting patterns at international forums in Israel’s favor. Israeli and Indian companies have recently sealed massive defense deals, and three ships from the Indian Navy were in Israel last month for three days of exercises.
Indian-Palestinian relations are strong, too. Last month, PA President Mahmoud Abbas spent three days in New Delhi meeting with Modi, President Pranab Mukherjee and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
“The relationship between India and Palestine is built on the foundation of longstanding solidarity and friendship since the days of our own freedom struggle,” Modi said at the time. “India has been unwavering in its support of the Palestinian cause. And we hope to see the realization of a sovereign, independent, united and viable Palestine, co-existing peacefully with Israel.”
Observers said Modi’s friendly hosting of Abbas was intended to offset expected criticism of his planned trip to Israel.