Netanyahu Cancels India Visit Two Weeks Before Israel Election

PM's office says Netanyahu and Modi 'agreed that due to scheduling constraints' the India visit will take place after Israeli election are held on September 17

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Olga Beach, October 9, 2017.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to India, scheduled to take place a week before Israel heads to the polls, has been canceled, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement Tuesday.

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"A short time ago, the prime minister spoke with India's prime minister," the statement said. "The two agreed that due to scheduling constraints – the [Israeli] prime minister's visit will take place after the election."

Over the past two years, Netanyahu and Modi have hailed "a new era of friendship between the nations," with mutual high-profile visits and several bilateral agreements signed in the fields of oil, gas, renewable energy and cyber cooperation. In his January 2018 visit to India, Netanyahu called Modi a "revolutionary leader," who had transformed the relationship between the two nations. 

According to media reports, Israel wishes to sell India several advanced weapons manufactured by the country's defense industries, such as spy planes, unmanned aircraft, anti-tank missiles, cannons and radar systems.

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In January, National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat travelled with several members of the council to India, where he met with his Indian counterpart and with Modi. In those meetings, Ben Shabbat discussed different weapon deals between the two countries.

On Monday, Haaretz reported on Netanyahu efforts to engineer a dramatic diplomatic gesture from the Trump administration in order to help him win on September 17.

In recent weeks, there have been intensive talks between some of Netanyahu’s advisers and people close to U.S. President Donald Trump over a potential statement by the American president, in which he could commit to protecting Israel in the future from any existential threat.

Netanyahu is also trying to orchestrate some form of gesture from Russian President Vladimir Putin — either in the form of an official Putin visit to Israel or a trilateral meeting of the national security advisers of Israel, Russia and the United States. This would be similar to a meeting that took place in Israel in June.

Earlier this year, Netanyahu canceled a visit to Japan that had been planned for late July. A source told Haaretz that the cancellation had two reasons: the date of the trip was too close to the deadline for the slates of all Knesset candidates to be submitted; and the South Koreans made it clear to Netanyahu that they would not sign a bilateral free trade agreement.

In February, Netanyahu canceled a trip to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with sources in his Likud party saying that the reason was assessments, which turned out to be correct, that his election rival Benny Gantz would join forces with Yair Lapid to run together in April's election.