Netanyahu dials 'my friend Narendra', jokes about coalition needs

Netanyahu's Likud was the largest party in April's Israeli polls, but needs allies

Modi Netanyahu Twitter beach Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, on his visit to Israel in 2017 | Via Twitter

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has built a bond with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi since the latter first assumed office in 2014. In addition to much publicised bilateral visits, the two have also frequently exchanged informal wishes on Twitter, even on festivals like Hanukkah and Diwali.

Modi wished Netanyahu on his election victory in the Israeli polls last month by addressing him as “My dear friend Bibi”, using the Israeli prime minister's nickname. On Thursday, it was Netanyahu's turn to wish “Narendra”. After becoming the first world leader to wish Modi on the BJP's landslide victory in the Lok Sabha polls on Twitter, Netanyahu also uploaded a video clip of him on the phone with Modi. The call appears to be an audio message as Modi's voice is not heard in the clip.

Netanyahu said, “Narendra my friend, congratulations! What an enormous victory! I hope Narendra that we can see each other soon, as soon as you form a government and as soon as we form a government.”

Netanyahu remembered Modi's wishes on his election victory in April, but added that there was a difference between the two triumphs. "Well, thank you for your congratulations on my victory, but there's one difference: You don't need a coalition, I do," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu's Likud won 35 seats in the 120-member Israeli Knesset. He has time until May 28 to finalise a coalition with a number of smaller parties to continue governance. Interestingly, on Thursday night, Yediot Ahronot reported Netanyahu had warned possible coalition partners that he may dissolve the Knesset and call elections again as talks with Yisrael Beytenu, a small secular, rightwing party, hit a dead-end.

Netanyahu had welcomed Modi on the first visit to Israel by an Indian prime minister in 2017, with the two leaders sharing considerable time together. Netanyahu visited India the following year, with Modi taking him to his home state of Gujarat. Netanyahu had announced plans for a visit to India in February, but the trip was dropped.

Under the Modi government, India has stepped up defence cooperation with Israel and also furthered partnerships in areas such as agriculture, science and technology.