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India’s Modi, Italy’s Meloni congratulate Netanyahu

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also congratulated Israel's current opposition leader, who is slated to return as prime minister with a right-wing coalition.

World leaders began congratulating Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu today on his victory in the Israeli election. 

With most of the votes counted, it is clear Netanyahu and his right-wing allies have won the election, which was Israel’s fifth in four years. The former prime minister will replace current Prime Minister Yair Lapid

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban may have been the first to congratulate Netanyahu, hailing his “strong victory” in a tweet. “Hard times require strong leaders. Welcome back!” he said. 

Netanyahu replied promptly, tweeting “I look forward to continue to expand the close friendship between Israel and Hungary.” 

New Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also wrote “mazel tov” to Netanyahu on Twitter. “Ready to strengthen our friendship and our bilateral relations, to better face our common challenges,” she said. 

Netanyahu thanked Meloni as well on Twitter. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi likewise congratulated Netanyahu. He wrote “I look forward to continuing our joint efforts to deepen the India-Israel strategic partnership,” in a tweet. 

Netanyahu tweeted his thanks to Modi in Hebrew, referring to the Indian leader as “my friend.” Modi tweeted in both Hebrew and English. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted a congratulatory message to Netanyahu as well, saying “It’s always important to see real democracy in action.” 

Why it matters: Orban, Meloni, and Modi, as well as Netanyahu, are often associated with the rise in right-wing populism around the world. Israel’s relations with India and Hungary in particular improved dramatically during Netanyahu’s time as prime minister. 

India was traditionally supportive of the Palestinian cause, choosing to view the conflict through an anti-colonial lens. Netanyahu and Modi have both embraced religious nationalism, which could explain their friendly relations. India and Israel have strong economic relations nowadays. 

Netanyahu and Orban have also been friends for years. Their close relationship is controversial due to the relatively high degree of anti-Semitism in Hungary

The fact that Zelensky was so quick to congratulate Netanyahu is also notable. Last week, Netanyahu said he would “look into” supplying weapons to Ukraine if elected. 

Israel under Lapid and his predecessor, former Netanyahu ally and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, were reluctant to be overly supportive of Ukraine due to Israel’s important relationship with Russia. Israel is particularly concerned about Russia’s extensive military presence in neighboring Syria. 

Zelensky criticized Israel recently for its relative neutrality in the conflict. 

Know more: US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides held a phone call with Netanyahu following his election victory. “I congratulated him on his victory and told him I look forward to working together to maintain the unbreakable bond,” said Nides. 

Though US support to Israel was largely unaffected, Netanyahu had relatively cool relations with both President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden. 

The inclusion of far-right Jewish nationalist Itamar Ben Gvir could harm relations with the Biden administration, Israeli journalist Barak Ravid reported yesterday. 

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