Bennett postpones India trip after COVID diagnosis

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday postponed a planned trip to India, a day after contracting COVID-19.

Bennett had been set to travel to India this weekend to mark 30 years of full diplomatic relations between the nations.

It was not immediately clear when the trip would take place.

Bennett’s office has said he is feeling well and working from home as he isolates.

The premier’s postponement came a day after Defense Minister Benny Gantz also put off his planned visit to India due to the volatile security situation in Israel, after two deadly terror attacks claimed the lives of six Israelis within days.

The two concurrent planned trips caused tensions between Bennett and Gantz when they were announced last week. Gantz had been slated to travel on Tuesday, four days before the prime minister.

The announcement of Gantz’s trip caught the Prime Minister’s Office off-guard, according to Haaretz, which cited an Israeli official who said that the Defense Minister was trying to upstage Bennett by traveling ahead of him. The unnamed official called the plan a “childish attempt” to beat Bennett.

Sources close to the defense minister, however, painted a different picture of the events, claiming that Bennett was the one who tried to outplay Gantz. They told Haaretz that Gantz’s trip to India was scheduled for April five months ago, and that after hearing about that trip, Bennett reached out to Modi’s office to schedule a meeting.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a conference at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, on February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The incident highlighted the breakdown in coordination between the two men’s offices, with Gantz’s Blue and White party repeatedly clashing with other members of the coalition in recent months. The party has expressed frustration that its legislative goals are not being sufficiently advanced, leading to several coalition crises.

Bennett had been expected to depart on April 2 for the trip, which would include meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Indian officials, as well as members of the local Jewish community.

Bennett met with Modi on the sidelines of the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November and exchanged remarks.

Though New Delhi recognized Israel in 1950, ties were long frosty between the two nations, owing largely to India’s large Muslim population and its leadership role in the Cold War-era Non-Aligned Movement.

Full diplomatic relations were established in 1992.

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