Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (2nd L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (R) review the honor guard upon Mukherjee's arrival at the West Bank city of Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee began a historic three-day visit to Israel on Tuesday after spending 24 hours in the Palestinian Authority during which he gave two public addresses but never once mentioned the raging Palestinian terrorism on the streets.
“India’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and its principled support to the Palestinian cause is rooted in our own freedom struggle,” he said during a speech Tuesday at Al-Quds University where he was given an honorary doctorate.
Mukherjee said India has “always been at the forefront in promoting the Palestinian cause,” and boasted that it voted against the UN partition plan in 1947, a plan that allowed for the establishment of Israel. Of the 13 votes against partition (33 countries voted for, and 10 abstained), India was one of only three non-Muslim states, the others being Cuba and Greece.
The Indian president then ticked off a list of how India has supported the Palestinians, including recognizing the PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974; being the first non-Arab country to recognize the “State of Palestine” in 1988; “spearheading” the campaign for recognition of Palestinian statehood by the UN in 2012; and supporting the recent resolution to fly the Palestinian flag at the UN Headquarters last month.
He also pointed out that India voted in favor of the UN General Assembly Resolution in October 2003 against construction of the “separation wall,” and voted to accept Palestine as a full member of UNESCO.
The Indian president’s checklist of support at the UN for the Palestinians comes against the backdrop of concerns voiced by Palestinian officials in recent months that this support was eroding as a result of New Delhi’s decision to abstain on three UN votes in recent months, rather than vote against Israel as it traditionally has done in the past.
The public tenor of Israeli-Indian ties has markedly improved since Narendra Modi, of the right-wing BJP party, was elected prime minister in 2014. Mukherjee, in the largely ceremonial presidential role, spent nearly six decades as leader of the Modi’s rival party, the Indian National Congress.
Mukherjee said in his lecture at Al-Quds University that India “shares the perception that the Palestinian issue is at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace and stability in the region is in India’s interest.”
Al-Quds University was not the only site where Mukherjee completely ignored the Palestinian terrorism. The night before, at a banquet in his honor hosted by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, he also did not mention one word about the violence.
There, too, he highlighted his country’s pro-Palestinian credentials.
“India attaches great importance to its long-standing friendship with Palestine,” he said. “India’s empathy with the Palestinian cause and its friendship with the people of Palestine have become an integral part of our foreign policy.”
He said India’s “policy on Palestine has three core dimensions: solidarity with the Palestinian people; support to the Palestinian cause; and partnership in Palestine’s nation- and capacity- building efforts.”
The Indian leadership, across the political spectrum, remains unwavering and steadfast in its support for the Palestinian cause, he said, adding that India supports “a negotiated solution, resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital.”
The Indian leader said his country believes that “dialogue is the only viable option in the search for a just, durable, comprehensive and peaceful solution of the Palestinian issue.
Diplomacy and statesmanship have to prevail over hatred and violence in the search for lasting and durable peace.”
In addition to receiving an honorary doctorate from Al-Quds, Mukherjee inaugurated a new secondary school in Abu Dis named after the first Indian premier, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Following his visit in Abu Dis, Mukherjee crossed over to Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon, formally beginning the first-ever visit to Israel by an Indian president. Mukherjee, who on Monday laid a wreath at Yasser Arafat’s grave in Ramallah, did the same at the tomb of Theodor Herzl on Mount Herzl. He then visited Yad Vashem along with President Reuven Rivlin, followed by a reception at the King David Hotel for representatives of the Indian Jewish community.
Mukherjee is scheduled to address the Knesset Wednesday, followed by a state dinner in his honor hosted by Rivlin. He is slated to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday.