Conte attacks the government over Israel. Sparks flew in Parliament on Wednesday, during a Q&A session in Parliament on Italy’s approach to the Middle Eastern crisis, when Giuseppe Conte – leader of the opposition force Five Star Movement (M5S) – blasted Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and accused the government of being cowardly.
- The latter had reiterated the executive’s position: that Hamas “must no longer control Gaza,” that hostages must be released “unconditionally”, that “longer humanitarian pauses” are needed and that Rome is ready to provide additional humanitarian aid, even with naval hospitals.
- Mr Conte then countered that his party “wanted to know what the Italian government is doing for a ceasefire in Gaza,” remarking that Italy had abstained from the relative UN vote and arguing that Rome should do more.
What he said: “Stop sending weapons to Israel. Stop Italy’s cowardice. Stop sending arms to Israel immediately. My government has done this with some countries. The only thing you lack is courage. The political response cannot be cowardice. Is Italy burying its head in the sand? But it is drenched in blood,” said the M5S leader in Parliament.
- Reacting to FM Tajani’s indignant response, in which he rejected these accusations, Mr Conte then accused him of misconstruing his remarks, addressed to the government, with personal attacks.
- His line mirrors his party’s line on Ukraine, i.e. stop arming Kyiv’s resistance. Over the past days, an influential M5S member had also accused the Democratic Party, the biggest opposition force in Parliament, of lacking the “courage” to oppose weapons shipments to Ukraine.
- Dem MPs steered very clear of Mr Conte’s line, marking their difference on the issue.
Crosetto’s fact-checking. Hours later, Defence Minister Guido Crosetto took to social media to debunk Mr Conte’s claims – by posting a visual brief on Italy’s military shipments to Israel. Before being suspended in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack, export permits amounted to €9.9 million and were “almost all communication systems.”
- They also amounted to roughly €9 million in 2022 and €12 million in 2021. In 2020 and 2019, the years in which Mr Conte had been in power as Prime Minister, they amounted to €21 and €28 million respectively.
- This is beyond the fact that Italy’s exports of arms to Israel are a non-issue compared to Ukraine due to the simple fact that they are not vital for the former. As Minister Crosetto said repeatedly, “If Hamas had the same weapons as Israel, Israel wouldn’t exist anymore.”
Meanwhile, Meloni calls Zelensky. The Italian PM spoke with the Ukrainian President over the phone on Wednesday in what was possibly their first contact since the phone call incident (caused by Russia-aligned actors), due to which she had spoken publicly of war fatigue in the West. Nevertheless, while talking to President Zelensky, she confirmed the Italian government’s “continued support for the Ukrainian authorities with a view to achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
- The Ukrainian leader then expressed “gratitude for her and Italy’s strong support” on social media, noting that Rome is “demonstrating powerful leadership, and I anticipate that its 2024 G-7 Presidency will yield even more important results. We coordinated our joint efforts and agreed to start working on bilateral security guarantees following the relevant G-7 Vilnius declaration.”