Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed for Italy on Thursday to meet with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, as well as members of the Jewish community and business community.
His departure was complicated by protestors blocking roads to Ben-Gurion International Airport, which necessitated a helicopter trip to reach airport.
In addition, El Al Airlines, who was operating the flight to Italy for the prime minister, initially had difficulty finding a crew to fly Netanyahu and his advisors.
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Meloni to discuss several issues on Friday, including improving economic cooperation between Israel and Italy, getting support for moving the Italian embassy to Jerusalem, and improving Italy’s support of the Jewish state at the United Nations.
In an interview with la Republica newspaper, Netanyahu said, "I believe the time has come for Rome to recognize Jerusalem as the ancestral capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, as the United States did with a gesture of great friendship."
Italy has historically opposed recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital until a peace agreement can be made with the Palestinians.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, leader the Northern League party, supported Netanyahu’s request in a post on social media.
“I firmly say YES to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, in the name of peace, history and truth,” he tweeted on Thursday.
Dico convintamente SÌ a Gerusalemme capitale di Israele, nel nome della pace, della storia e della verità.— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) March 9, 2023
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has been more cautious, despite her support of Israel.
“It is a diplomatic matter and should be evaluated together with the Foreign Ministry,” she said in an interview with Reuters last year.
Netanyahu also hopes to address Italy’s poor support for Israel at the UN, stating that, “Since 2015, Italy has voted against us 89 times at the UN,” in contrast to what he said is excellent bilateral relations between the two countries.
“Instead of dealing with nations like Syria and Iran, where the most basic rights are trampled on, at the UN, countries vote against Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” Netanyahu complained.
Netanyahu also told la Republica he wants to see more economic cooperation between Israel and Italy, specifically in the form of a natural gas deal.
“We have a lot of it [natural gas] and I would like to discuss how to get it to Italy to support your economic growth,” he said.
Italy has committed to replacing imports of natural gas from Russia, following the country’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Netanyahu’s visit with Jewish leaders at a synagogue in Rome on Thursday evening turned somber after he was informed of the terror attack in Tel Aviv just moments after his speech. while Noemi Di Segni, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, addressed the attendees.
While Di Segni attacked the judicial reforms in her speech, Netanyahu was receiving regular updates about the Tel Aviv situation.
“We will continue to build our nation, we will continue to deepen our roots, and to build our common future. As brothers and sisters,” he told the participants.
Netanyahu also called for unity regarding the judicial reform debates, saying, “We must remember that especially these days, days of argument and debate within Israel — we must remember we are one nation with a common future.”
He welcomed “all initiatives” to find a solution to the disagreements that are polarizing Israeli society.
When the prime minister finished his comments, the crowd began to sing Israel’s national anthem, HaTikvah (the Hope).
After PM @netanyahu updates the Jewish community in Rome about the Tel Aviv shooting attack, the crowd breaks into a spontaneous rendition of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. pic.twitter.com/iazcZnoLwo— Lazar Berman (@Lazar_Berman) March 9, 2023
Earlier this morning, Italian Prime Minister Meloni posted a message of support for Israel following the attack.
Sono sconvolta dall’ennesima notizia di violenze contro civili israeliani. L’Italia è al fianco di Israele a fronte dell’attentato terroristico avvenuto ieri a Tel Aviv. Esprimo al Premier @netanyahu, da poco arrivato a Roma, la solidarietà mia e del Governo italiano.— Giorgia Meloni (@GiorgiaMeloni) March 10, 2023
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.