Giorgia Meloni and her political allies have shown closeness to Israel, supported Israel’s right to defend itself, and condemned the BDS movement. What would be her next step?
https://www.jpost.com/-By ALESSANDRO BERTOLDI
NOVEMBER 15: Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy (L) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey (R) chat ahead of a working lunch at the G20 Summit on November 15, 2022 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.(photo credit: LEON NEAL/POOL VIA REUTERS)
This year, just a few weeks apart, Israelis and Italians cast their ballots for fresh national leadership, with Benjamin Netanyahu and Giorgia Meloni tasked with forming new, cohesive governments. Two conservative leaders with different personal backgrounds, but with very similar political positions, and who in Europe would be considered part of the same political family (i.e., European Conservatives and Reformists), with ideologies similar to the US Republican Party and the British Conservative Party.
Meloni, the President of the European Party and Fratelli d’Italia, has definitively distanced herself from fascism and its sympathizers. There are few, if any, cases of political proponents close to her who can be accused of antisemitism or hatred towards Israel. On the contrary, several cases have recently emerged in the Italian media of proponents of the Italian Left supporting antisemitic positions, the delegitimization of Israel, and in some instances, even aligning themselves with organizations connected to the Hamas terrorist group.
Instead, Giorgia Meloni and her political allies have shown closeness to Israel, supported Israel’s right to defend itself, condemned the antisemitic BDS movement, and spoken harshly about those Italian politicians espousing antisemitism and anti-Israel causes.
Within Meloni’s parliamentary majority in the government, there are also two long-time friends of Israel: Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini. Both men have historically taken strong positions of support for Israel, as well as the harshest positions of condemnation against the criticism and demonization of Israel. Both Berlusconi and Salvini have always defined Israel as the most important liberal and democratic country in the Middle East, the bulwark of Western values, even referring to Jews as “elder brothers.”
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a personal friend of Netanyahu, has consistently defended Israel’s defensive actions against Hamas terror attacks and missiles, even in the most hostile international forums, making him one of Israel’s most beloved foreign leaders, as Netanyahu himself acknowledged. Another ardent supporter, Salvini, pushed to move the Italian Embassy to Jerusalem in order for the Holy City to be recognized as the capital of Israel by Italy.
Conversely, Giorgia Meloni has yet to take a clear position on the location of the Italian Embassy. How she moves forward on this issue could be the real crux with respect to relations between Rome and Jerusalem. Many in Italy and in Israel await such an important decision.
Another realm where Meloni could demonstrate her leadership and support for Israel would be to reestablish the Extraordinary Committee for the Fight of Intolerance, Racism, Antisemitism, and Hate and Violence Incitement in the Italian Senate (Commissione straordinaria per il contrasto dei fenomeni di intolleranza, razzismo, antisemitismo e istigazione all’odio e alla violenza).
In the meantime, the new Italian government has also passed the first practical test at the UN, where a few days ago, Italy voted against an anti-Israel resolution on the involvement of the International Court of Justice, which accused Israel of human rights violations against the Palestinians. Rome abandoned its abstention position for the first time, voting against the resolution, together with 16 other countries. The Italian Foreign Ministry then stated that it did not like the text of the resolution, where it referred to the Temple Mount as a sacred place in Islam without even acknowledging what it represents for the world’s Jews and Christians. The proposed resolution used the Arabic term Haram al-Sharif (the Esplanade of the Mosques) to refer to the location, but intentionally omitted the Jewish term (Temple Mount/Har HaBayit).
As these two governments ease into their newfound leadership, we will see what the future holds. One thing is for certain, though. The bond between Jerusalem and Rome is very solid, perhaps stronger than ever, given that Meloni’s majority is without question the most pro-Israel parliamentary majority ever.
Alessandro Bertoldi is the President of Alleanza per Israele (Alliance for Israel), a pro-Israel NGO in Italy, and the Executive Director of Milton Friedman Institute.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Rabbi Abraham Cooper.