ON Wednesday (February 22), as Israeli forces embarked on a murderous rampage in Nablus, in occupied Palestine, in which 11 Palestinians were killed, the Israeli ambassador to Delhi, Naor Gilon, held a press conference to ‘mark three decades of Indo-Israel formal diplomatic ties’.
Surrounded by several Indian journalists, Gilon addressed the following:
- India’s rise as ‘a world superpower’
- Adani’s purchase of the Haifa Port
- Israel’s support for an Indian-owned Port in the Mediterranean
Answering questions from the press, Gilon specifically tried to put to rest concerns over the purchase of Haifa Port by the Adani Group now at the center of a financial scandal in India.
As you may know, a consortium led by Adani Group purchased the Haifa Port for $1.2bn in a deal that materialised in late January.
However, Adani has been hit with accusations of fraud.
Investors began pulling out and the company has lost upwards of $100 bn
But Gilon told members of the media, as he has done before, that Port had been paid for in full.
He also inferred that the intense media scrutiny surrounding Adani was unnecessary given that there were around 80 companies working in Israel.
He also said that Israel was not pushing any private sector deals.
Of course the suggestion that the media should move on from Adani is ludicrous given that it is the biggest deal an Indian company has ever embarked on in Israel.
Moreover, the idea that India and Israel weren’t encouraging private companies to deepen ties – is equally inaccurate given Gilon’s own comments later during the presser:
- ‘We feel very comfortable with India. An Indian controlled port in Israel, in the Mediterranean is something that we are welcoming. We would love India to be part of the UN Security Council, as soon as possible again – we enjoyed the fact that they were before – because having friends in these places is very important for us.’
- ‘The Adani Group paid in full the cost of the Haifa port. The port has money for development. Port infrastructure is an important part of Adani Group. It is in the interest of both Adani and Israel. Everyone wants this port to work well. It is a strategic asset and will be useful for India. Adani Group is looking for more projects in Israel and I hope they get it.’
- ‘India is coming from a regional superpower to a world superpower. I think it feels comfortable enough and strong enough to start looking beyond the immediate, you know, countries usually look at immediate issues.’
- ‘Thirty years ago, we started on defence. Today it has spread across defence, agriculture and other sectors. Our relation today is very good. Israel enjoys popular support in India. People in India have a fascination for Israel.’
According to the media reports, the engagement with the Ambassador lasted one hour.
After a cursory examination of the news coverage from the press conference, I wasn’t able to find even a single reference to Palestine or the raid that took place on Wednesday.
Al Jazeera reported that around 150 Israeli soldiers entered Nablus in dozens of military vehicles. The number of Palestinians injured were more than 80.
The incident in Nablus comes after a particularly brutal year for Palestinians.
More than 35 Palestinians were killed in January 2023 alone.
‘At least 220 people have died in Israeli attacks across the occupied territories, including 48 children. Of the total death toll, 167 were from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and 53 were from the Gaza Strip,’ my colleagues wrote.
India-Israeli relations under Narendra Modi have amplified to the level of a strategic partnership. India is now Israel’s largest buyer of weapons.
And India has recalculated its foreign policy to deal with Israel and Palestine as separate entities.
It appears the Indian media have followed suit.
I2U2 meeting in Abu Dhabi
As the press conference in Delhi unfolded, another high-level meeting took place in Abu Dhabi.
On Wednesday, February 22, economic and government leaders from India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States gathered in Abu Dhabi for the Inaugural I2U2 Business Forum, to discuss economic opportunities and ‘pressing issues including food insecurity and energy crisis’ between the four countries.
The meeting was attended by US Under Secretary of State Jose W. Fernandez, as well as Dammu Ravi, Secretary of Economic Relations in India’s Ministry of External Affairs, the UAE Minister of State Ahmed Al-Sayegh, and Ronen Levi, Director-General at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Commenting on the trip, US under secretary Fernandez said the I2U2 reinforced the US government’s goal ‘to build on the Abraham Accords and other normalisation agreements and advance Israel’s economic integration into the broader region.’
‘It further sets a standard for working together to deliver solutions to the region’s most pressing challenges. The two initial projects promote food security and clean energy in India, and they are innovative, ambitious, achievable, and commercially viable,’ Fernandez said in remarks released by the US state department.
‘While our initial focus is on initiatives in the four I2U2 countries, we are confident that this model could yield benefits and new opportunities in other parts of the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond, and may consider broadening the scope to other sectors, including technology and semiconductors,’ Fernandez added.
This article first appeared in the ‘India and Israel’ newsletter produced by Azad Essa, a journalist based between Johannesburg and New York City. He is a senior reporter for Middle East Eye.
- Essa has also just released his book, Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India-Israel, published by Pluto Press. The book traces the history of relations between the two countries, the development of a joint military-industrial complex, and examines the ways in which Delhi and Tel Aviv are building eco-systems to expand their occupations of Kashmir and Palestine and export their militarism. When ordering online from Pluto’s website use ‘Essa20’ for a 20 percent discount.