Bibi is incoming. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu landed in Rome. He was welcomed by Defence Minister Guido Crosetto on behalf of PM Giorgia Meloni, whom he will meet, alongside Business Minister Adolfo Urso, on Friday.
- In January, the Israeli and Italian Foreign Ministers spoke over the phone, discussing stability in the Middle East and expanding business relations. The latter, Antonio Tajani, is expected in Israel soon, whereas Senate President Ignazio La Russa recently visited.
- Minister Urso had touched upon the same matters in his December meeting with Israeli Ambassador Alon Bar.
- Meanwhile, the Med-Or Foundation and the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv have signed a partnership to develop joint research projects on geopolitical and security issues in the wider Mediterranean.
Business, energy, security. In an interview with La Repubblica, PM Netanyahu noted that relations with Rome are “very solid” but that he would like to “see more economic cooperation. Israel is a home of innovation, and I think closer relations with [Italian] companies will be good for both of us.
- That’s already ongoing: in early February, Italian aerospace and defence giant Leonardo partnered with the Israeli Innovation Authority and the Technology Transfer Office of the Tel Aviv University to strengthen relations with Israel’s thriving innovation and startup ecosystem.
- Mr Netanyahu also spoke of natural gas and delivering it to Italy – which bodes well for the EastMed pipeline project – and touched upon Iran, stressing the need to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power.
Also, politics. Furthermore, Mr Netanyahu said he hoped Rome would accelerate its change of approach to voting at the United Nations, stressing that Italy had voted against Israel 89 times since 2015 – “a fact that clashes with the excellent bilateral relations.”
- “Finally, I would like a closer partnership with Italy on EU policies,” he noted.
- The Italian and Israeli governments aim to hold a G2G Summit as early as the first half of 2023, aiming to leverage the good relations between the two heads of government.
- PM Meloni has always stressed her alignment with Likud, Mr Netanyahu’s party, which is also a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party (ECR) led by Ms Meloni herself.
The Jerusalem issue. In his interview, PM Netanyahu again reiterated Israel’s desire that Italy, too, recognises Jerusalem as its capital city – a sensitive issue within the Israeli-Palestinian framework.
- The matter had already opened a rift within the centre-right coalition, with Ms Meloni noting she had no plans to do so on the campaign trail. Her partner-rival Matteo Salvini, Leader of the League and current Deputy PM, enthusiastically supported the recognition instead.
- He repeated as much with a tweet on Thursday.