Benjamin Netanyahu meets corporate leaders in Mumbai, calls India-Israel ties 'partnership made in heaven'

Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday met corporate honchos and Jewish community members, and spoke enthusiastically about his country's ties with India.

PTI January 18, 2018 20:58:30 IST
Benjamin Netanyahu meets corporate leaders in Mumbai, calls India-Israel ties 'partnership made in heaven'

On the last day of his trip to India that began on 14 January, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met corporate honchos and Jewish community members, and spoke enthusiastically about his country's ties with India, calling it a partnership "made in heaven".

During his packed itinerary in Mumbai, Netanyahu on Thursday had a power breakfast with business leaders, paid tributes to 26/11 terror attack victims, and made a stop at Nariman House with an 11-year-old survivor of the assault that left both his parents dead.

Netanyahu held discussions with top Indian CEOs, industrialists and bankers at the iconic Hotel Taj Mahal Palace.

Netanyahu said, "the business partnership between India and Israel is doing wonders" and that he has developed "a strong personal friendship" with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Among the CEOs present were Ashok Hinduja, Anand Mahindra, Adi Godrej, Ajay Piramal, Harsh Goenka and Chanda Kochhar, with whom Netanyahu cheerfully interacted before getting down to breakfast-cum-business.

"The future belongs to those who innovate and it is our job to encourage you to innovate. It is very crucial for you and your Israeli counterparts to meet," Netanyahu said.

He emphasised that innovation cannot self-manifest but "it can be nurtured and encouraged and it can also be discouraged".

It was the job of his government and the government of Modi to facilitate "your competitive advantages and the ability to innovate", he told the business leaders.

He pointed out that the people of both Israel and India were 'seizing the future', but if they got together they can get there a lot quicker.

Besides, there was "a partnership of genuine sympathy" between the peoples of both countries that have civilisations which are very old but who have not met each other in a real sense, he said.

But there was an "instant chemical reaction of tremendous solidarity and identification" which was seen when Israelis walk the streets of India and the response they get and vice-versa when Indians go to Israel, Netanyahu said.

Benjamin Netanyahu meets corporate leaders in Mumbai calls IndiaIsrael ties partnership made in heaven

File image of Benjamin Netanyahu. PTI


Later, appearing relaxed, he addressed the India-Israel Business Summit which witnessed the participation of top business personalities from both countries.

"We are the two oldest cultures on earth. We are democracies, we share our love for freedom, and we share our love for humanity. We are truly your partners. This is a partnership made in heaven," he said at the summit. He added that the partnership between the two countries rests on shared values of love for humanity, democracy and freedom.

"India and Israel are winning by a partnership which is reaching unprecedented heights. This is just the beginning. This is the beginning of a wonderful, ancient friendship and the possibilities are boundless," he said.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis also addressed the summit. "The way the Jewish community has assimilated with the Indian community here is very good. India and Israel can become the best partners. A new chapter of friendship and relationship started when Modi visited Israel in 2017," Fadnavis said.

"The agriculture practices used in Israel are very impressive. We are going to sign an MoU for irrigation with an Israeli firm to help sustain the water-starved regions of Maharashtra," Fadnavis added.

Netanyahu pays tribute to 26/11 victims

Netanyahu, the first Israeli prime minister to visit the financial capital of India, later paid homage to the victims of the 26/11 terror attacks.

Accompanied by Fadnavis, he laid a wreath at the 26/11 memorial at the iconic Taj hotel, under a heavy security blanket. The attack by ten Pakistani terrorists had claimed 166 lives in 2008.

The Israeli prime minister also wrote a message in the visitor's book at the place.

Netanyahu-Moshe reunion

Netanyahu then visited the nearby Chabad House, where he met 11-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, an Israeli national whose father Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and mother Rivka were killed at the Jewish cultural outreach centre during the attack.

Moshe's paternal grandparents—Nachman Holtzberg and Frieda Holtzberg, and maternal grandparents—Shimon Rosenberg and and Yehudit Rosenberg, besides his uncle Moshe smiled as the young boy read out a brief welcome speech for Netanyahu.

All through the solemn but emotion-free event, Netanyahu was seen constantly smiling, and speaking to little Moshe, most of times with his arms around the boy's shoulder.

"This place is a unique merge between love for Israeli people and the hatred towards the people of Israel. The nation of Israel is known for salvation," Netanyahu told the gathering in Hebrew.

The Israeli prime minister thanked Moshe for hosting him. "Your parents showed love to the people and welcomed all to this house. They provided for every Jew a home. This is loving Israel but terrorists showed hatred towards Israel," he said.

Netanyahu said the terrorists could not harm Moshe because of the love shown by his nanny.

"In the past, the Jewish people have witnessed a lot of challenges but with the help of God they overcame everything. The people of Israel are living and will live forever," he said.

Moshe, who received a memento from Netanyahu, invited the Israeli prime minister for his 'Bar Mitzvah' (a coming-of-age ritual which Jewish boys undergo when they turn 13).

Terming his escape from the terrorists a miracle, Moshe thanked God for saving his life. He also thanked Netanyahu for keeping his promise of bringing him to India with him.

There are about 5,000 members of the Jewish community living in India and most of them call Mumbai their home. For them, the visit by the Israeli prime minister was about reconnecting with old friends and strengthening old bonds.

This was the first-ever visit by any high ranking Israeli dignitary to Chabad House, which reopened after repairs in 2014.

Living memorial in Chabad House

Netanyahu and Moshe announced plans to convert a part of the where Chabad House into "Living Memorial".

The proposed living memorial is likely to include rooms on the fifth floor of the building, where Moshe and his parents used to live, and a small terrace garden, while the fourth floor would be converted into a museum.

According to, Netanyahu also unveiled a plaque in the memory of Moshe’s parents. This was followed by Moshe's two grandmothers lighting an “eternal flame” in remembrance of the victims.

Netanyahu then visited the Holtzbergs’ still bullet-ridden residence. Later, Netanyahu shared a picture of him marking Moshe's height in the wall of the room where the 11-year-old mother had measured his height when he was a toddler.

Moshe prayed at the synagogue in south Mumbai on Thursday for the miracle which kept him alive, said his grandfather.

"People in Mumbai like Moshe, may be it (the attention) is too much. Everybody puts camera in front of his face and clicks, which makes him a bit upset," said Shimon Rosenberg, his maternal grandfather.

"He prayed at Chabad House for the miracle that saved his life and made him special," Rosenberg told mediapersons.

Moshe will visit Mumbai again when he turns 13, he said. "It is important that he is at the place where he was born, completing a cycle of life," Rosenberg added.

Meanwhile, some Muslim activists held a protest march against Netanyahu's visit in Byculla area of south Mumbai. They carried banners with "Netanyahu go back" written on them. Police prevented them from reaching the venue of events the Israeli premier was to attend.

Netanyahu also met the small but thriving Indian Jewish community: including representatives of the Israeli Jews, Bene Israelis and Baghdadi Jews living in Mumbai and surroundings.

The Israeli prime minister is scheduled to fly back home early on Friday, an official said.

Shalom Bollywood

Netanyahu topped off his day with a gala dinner meeting with top Indian film industry players at 'Shalom Bollywood'. According to ANI, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, UTV CEO Ronnie Screwvala and Karan Johar welcomed the Israeli prime minister.

With inputs from agencies

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