Israeli Parliament Speaker Ohana says planners of 2008 Mumbai terror attack should pay ‘heavy price’

New Delhi: Amir Ohana, a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will travel to India for four days from March 31 on his first official foreign trip after assuming office in December last year.

File photo of Israeli Parliament Speaker Amir Ohana

By Press Trust of India: The planners of the “disgusting” 2008 Mumbai terror attack must pay a heavy price, Israel’s parliament speaker has said ahead of his maiden visit to India, stressing that the fight against terrorism is one for 2 nations Standard concern.

Amir Ohana, a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will travel to India for four days from March 31 on his first official foreign trip after assuming office in December last year. Asserting that the threat of terrorism is a common concern, Ohana, a former Shin Bet (Israeli internal security agency) official told PTI that there is a need for all progressive countries to come together to combat it. Ohana said both India and Israel face the problem of terrorism and the fight against it is a joint one.

“We all remember the heinous terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 in which over 207 people were killed, of whom 178 were Indians. Among the foreigners killed were unfortunately Israelis and Jews who had come to the Chabad House,” Ohana identified.

“It was an attack not only on India, but also on Jews and free people everywhere,” the Knesset speaker said, “It was an attack on the shared values of India and Israel.” He said, ‘Whoever planned and sent terrorists from the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba should pay a heavy price for this.’

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“The attack on the Chabad House (in Mumbai) symbolizes a common pain for India and Israel, but also our partnership in the uncompromising fight against terrorism,” Ohana said. He said that the fight against terrorism is necessary for all independent countries and especially for two countries like India and Israel. Ohana said that shared values, concerns, pain and immense potential in the strategic partnership underpin India-Israel ties.

The Parliament Speaker said, “When I had to decide where to go on my first official visit as the Speaker of the Knesset, India was the most interesting choice for several reasons.” He pointed out that India is a major developing power which has many problems in common with Israel and that no speaker of the Knesset has ever visited the country. “I thought the time had come to do this. For me it is important to bring together countries, parliaments and people who have a lot in common,” Ohana said.

He also spoke of the historic lack of anti-Semitism in India and the deepening cooperation between the two countries in many fields. “Unlike most of the countries I have visited in the past, there is no anti-Semitism in India. This is a unique thing”, he grumbled. Ohana on Thursday paid tribute to Indian soldiers who fought in the historic World War I battle to liberate the northern Israeli coastal city of Haifa from the Ottomans.

During his visit to India, Ohana will sign a cooperation agreement between the two parliaments with his counterpart Om Birla to facilitate information exchange between the two institutions and hold a series of parliamentary, political and economic meetings . He is likely to be accompanied by MP Michael Bitton and Amit Halevi, chairman of the Israel-India Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Ohana sees the move as another step “to strengthen and enhance cooperation between the countries in general and between the parliaments in particular” for the benefit of the citizens of both countries.

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The delegation will call on President Draupadi Murmu, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, besides several other officials. The delegation will also visit Mumbai, where they will pay respects to the lost at the Chabad House. He will meet the CEO of the National Stock Exchange during the four-day visit. The horror of 26/11 is still an emotional moment for many Israelis who feel it is a shared pain that binds the two countries together.

In a special gesture, Moshe Holtzberg, who as a child, survived the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, was invited to the opening ceremony of the newly elected Knesset in November last year. The 16-year-old recited a chapter from the Book of Psalms (tehillim) during the opening ceremony, “To my brothers and friends”.