It was on Oct. 22, just five weeks ago, that 45-year-old Giorgia Meloni became Italy’s first female prime minister, with world reactions less than enthusiastic about her sweeping win.
Why? Because Meloni, the right-wing candidate, embraced traditional principles of family, faith and country, which her opponents understood as code for fascist values, the same as Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini held in the 1920s.
The premature predictions of how bad she would be, not only for Italy, but also for Israel, came fast and furious.
They pointed to certain members of her “Brothers of Italy” party, Fratelli d’Italia, who were avowed anti-Semites. They tried to establish her own conservative positions as grounds for great concern.
Many liberals these days equate the act of putting one’s nation’s interests first with fascism and extremism. They even cite nationalism as having a proclivity towards anti-Semitism.
Nevertheless, in recent days, the Italian prime minister has expressed her desire to deepen ties with Israel, describing the country “as the only full-fledged democracy in the Middle East, whose existence is vital.”
It’s not every day we hear a European prime minister say the existence of Israel is vital. Such overtures do lend hope for a greater recognition of the country which so many Roman Catholic Italians treasure as the cradle of their faith and the one sovereign land they call “holy.”
While running for the premiership, Meloni assured supporters that “she would be a strong supporter of Israel, even boasting of ties to the Likud party” in Israel, according to The Times of Israel. Her party won the greatest number of seats in the parliamentary elections this November.
Now, perhaps, the time has come for Meloni to “put her money where her mouth is,” as the expression goes.
One thing is for sure – moving the Italian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem certainly would dispel any fears that Meloni’s party has any anti-Semitic leanings; it would require a courageous act which demands unity among those party members.
Once they displayed that expression of unity, it’s likely they would be met with great opposition, as they lend further legitimacy to Jerusalem as Israel’s true capital.
In a recent interview with the Israel HaYom newspaper, Meloni was asked if she would soon visit Israel and replied with an affirmative, “Yes, certainly,” emphasizing that she hoped to do so soon.
When questioned about moving the Italian embassy, her response seemed a bit more cautious and reserved, as she stated that such an act “would have to be done in partnership with the European Union.”
Ilan Pomeranc, author of the Jerusalem Post article “Time for Italy to move its embassy to Jerusalem,” is a member of the Israel Leadership Forum and an advocate for Israel causes, which includes working with Christian Zionist and pro-Israel Noahide groups. In his weekend piece, Pomeranc made an impassioned argument for why such a move would be warranted at this time.
He begins by making a parallel between the historical significance of Rome and Jerusalem, considering their respective societies and cultures. He states that Jerusalem and Rome ultimately serve as an example of reconciliation, partnership and mutual respect.
He goes on to say that “modern-day Italy has a particular historic responsibility to move its embassy to the Nation of Israel’s 3,000-year-old capital.”
Of course, this is true – especially in considering Judeo-Christian shared values.
Meloni could not wish for a better friend than Israel – one which would, undoubtedly, stand with her government if she would be willing to courageously follow in the steps of the United States, Kosovo, Honduras and Guatemala. These are the only nations (now excluding Australia) which dare to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while surely knowing they would earn anger from the many nations in the world that are unwilling to recognize Israel, let alone her capital!
If Meloni is truly interested in seeking closer ties with Israel, she might consider skipping the “May I” summit with the European Union; it’s almost certain they will not be on board if she seeks their approval. They surely would do everything in their power to not anger the neighboring Arab nations which would likely put pressure on them and they surely would threaten to distance themselves from Italy for what might be viewed as a renegade act.
While the E.U. represents the unified position of 28 countries, its relationship with Israel is ambiguous and even, sometimes, perceived as hostile. Despite their working together, both commercially and also on matters of security, the E.U.’s position, “based on the European Council’s Declaration of the Venice Summit of June 1980, is often seen in Israel as ‘pro-Palestinian.’”
If Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is sincere about her desire to develop closer ties with Israel, a good place to start would be with an imminent visit to the country, and to determine what significant gesture could be made, by her country, that would forge a greater bond between the two nations.
Ilan Pomeranc says, “The moment should be seized and the Italian Embassy in Israel should be moved to where it always belonged – to the city known to the Roman Empire already in its time as the Nation of Israel’s ancient capital, Jerusalem.”
While this is a great aspiration and hope, it will require a gutsy and fearless move on Meloni’s part, which would surely set her apart from her predecessors, as well as from all her European neighbors who, although often assuring us of their support, have yet to say, “This year in Jerusalem,” when it comes to moving their embassies.
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.