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A triumph! Netanyahu sweeps India off its feet

JOY: The welcome could hardly have been warmer as the two leaders greet each other on the tarmac at Delhi airport

INDIA and Israel hailed the “dawn of a new era” as a thrilled Benjamin Netanyahu was feted in India this week.

The six-day visit of the Israeli prime minister was a triumph in all respects.

The two nations signed NINE key deals in areas like defence, agriculture, aviation, cyber-defence, security and science . . . and lucrative contracts were won by the 140 business leaders travelling with him.

The warmth of the welcome Bibi and his wife Sara received from Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was evident from the very first moment.

A delighted Modi greeted the Israeli PM with a bearhug and raised Netanyahu’s arm in the air.

Modi had insisted on being on the tarmac when the El Al plane touched down on Sunday, breaking with original plans and protocol – something he had only done before for Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Diplomatic officials said the gesture was meant to show the Indian public that Israel is a very important country for India.

Indeed, Modi tweeted in Hebrew: “Your visit to India is historic and special. It will strengthen the close ties between our countries.”

Modi said he wanted the two countries to “scale up” their partnership — and Netanyahu said the two nations had great potential to work together to improve the lives of their citizens.

“Indians and Israelis remember too well the savagery of horrific terrorist attacks,” he said. “We fight back — we never give in.”

KISS: Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents were murdered in Mumbai in 2008, gets a kiss from Benjamin Netanyahu on his return to the Chabad House yesterday. Moshe now lives in Israel.

Modi used Hebrew again for a greeting the following morning when the two men met for two hours of talks . . . and Netanyahu agreed to attend a yoga class, should Modi invite him.

“Invite me to a yoga class and I’ll be there,” he smiled. “It’ll be a stretch.”

Wearing white slippers, Bibi and his wife Sara then laid a wreath at the site where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. The Israeli leader wrote in the guest book: “Such grandeur and simplicity in honour of modern India’s founding father, and one of the world’s great spiritual leaders.”

Following two days of an intense diplomatic schedule, the Netanyahus spent their third day in India doing what millions of tourists do when they tour the country — visiting the Taj Mahal.

In Mumbai yesterday, Netanyahu unveiled a memorial to 166 people killed in a terror attack in 2008.

With him was Moshe Holtzberg, who was two when his parents were gunned down at the Chabad House. Moshe, who now lives in Israel, was making his first visit back to Mumbai.

Sandra Samuels, the nanny who saved him from the slaughter and took him to Israel, was with him.

Moshe said: “Bahut khushi” (I am very happy).

“He’s back in “the very place where his life was miraculously saved by his Indian nanny,” said Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, the head of the Chabad Trust in India.


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