Congratulations… Italy. Israel, through its Foreign Ministry, congratulated the Italian people “on the conclusion of the election campaign,” but without mentioning the winner: Giorgia Meloni, leader of Brothers of Italy and prospective prime minister. How come?
- Israel, reads the statement, “looks forward to continued cooperation on economy, energy, water, innovation and cyber – as well as the joint fight against anti-Semitism and the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust. Italy is an important friend of Israel.”
Not a boycott, though. At first sight, this choice relates to BoI’s post-fascist roots. However, those working between the two countries went as far as calling the move “courageous,” noting four elements “despite which” a similar message came from the Israeli capital.
- In less than a month, Israel will vote, and the ruling parties are busy campaigning. That usually makes them shy away from political exposure.
- Ms Meloni (who can count on the likes of Giulio Terzi, head of BoI’s diplomatic relations and former ambassador to the United States and Israel) has always stressed her closeness to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud – a party that congratulated her but that is not in government, which was born of an anti-Netanyahu platform.
- Prime Minister Yair Lapid, a centrist, is also the minister of Foreign Affairs.
- She has also been lukewarm about recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (unlike her ally Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, who has long supported this diplomatic move).
- During the Italian electoral campaign, Israeli diplomacy too saw certain embarrassing images – such as BoI’s Romano La Russa’s fascist salute.
The Israeli version. A diplomatic source told the Jerusalem Post that there is no desire to boycott her. That same paper interviewed Riccardo Pacifici, former president of Rome’s Jewish Community and current representative of the European Jewish Association in Italy.
- “[Ms] Meloni was courageous when she declared that one cannot use fascist symbols and be a member of her party,” he explained, recalling that BoI just got Ester Mieli, former Community spokesperson, into the Senate.
If anything, the very act of sending that note demonstrates that the Israel-Italian bilateral relations are undergoing a positive phase, which is also reflected in defence and security cooperation. Case in point: there will be no shortage of messages addressed directly to Ms Meloni if and when she takes the mantle of Prime Minister.