Israel and Italy ready to take relations to the next levelby Anna Maria Cossiga
Recent meetings between Italian and Israeli authorities further strengthen already strong relations. By Anna Maria Cossiga
When the state of Israel was born in 1949, Italy was among the first countries to recognise it. Since then, relations between the two countries have always been friendly, with frequent reciprocal institutional visits and lively trade. Israel hosts numerous Italian companies and scientific, cultural and tourist exchanges are excellent. The sizeable and active Italian Jewish community in Israel, known as italkìm, also contributes to spreading Italian – and Italian-Jewish – culture.
Last week saw particularly intense reciprocal institutional exchange. The President of the Italian Senate Ignazio La Russa visited Jerusalem, on his first mission abroad. This was followed by a visit to Rome by Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, for talks with his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni, and, later, by a trip to Israel by Italian Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani.
Welcomed in the Knesset by Speaker of Parliament Amir Ohana, Mr. La Russa reiterated Italy’s support against all forms of state and non-state terrorism that could undermine Israel’s existence, and his firm condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. He also invited the Speaker of the Knesset to Rome for the celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the birth of the Italian Republic. Mr. Ohana, on his part, spoke of a new era in relations between the two countries.
During his visit to Rome, PM Netanyahu touched upon topics of mutual interest and cooperation, highlighting how relations between the two countries have always been solid but how, at the moment, there is room for improvement and “enormous cooperation”. Future cooperation will take place in agriculture and innovation but, above all, in the energy and water sectors. The Israeli Prime Minister announced that his government intends to expand the gas sector and increase flows from Israel to Italy and then all of Europe. In 2022, during Naftali Bennett’s mandate, Europe had already signed Memoranda of Understanding with Cairo and Tel Aviv for the transport of liquefied gas from Israel to Europe via Egypt, which would help reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian supplies. Netanyahu’s words thus confirm Israel’s willingness to contribute to Italy’s ambitions to become an energy hub for the Old Continent, as hoped for by PM Meloni. Also on the agenda was the issue of water scarcity, which is of particular interest for Italy due to the recent drought. “For thousands of years, the Near East has had wars over water – Netanyahu said – but we no longer have this problem because we produce it, thanks to recycling and desalination plants”.
At the Italy-Israel Economic Forum held at Palazzo Piacentini in the presence of Netanyahu, Italian Minister of Enterprises and Made in Italy Adolfo Urso stated that “Italy and Israel can give a joint response to the new global challenges” thanks to “shared values and strong scientific, technological and industrial cooperation”. Urso also hoped that cooperation in the fields of hydrogen, defence and space could be deepened.
Finally, during his visit to Israel, Antonio Tajani met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, his counterpart Eli Cohen and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Tajani said that Israel “is considered a strategic partner for political cooperation, in the fight against terrorism, in the most advanced industrial sectors, from space to technology and start-ups” and that he discussed with Netanyahu, whom he had already met in Rome, international political issues such as the war in Ukraine, the situation in Iran and the Near East. He also spoke at the roadshow of Leonardo’s Business Innovation Factory programme organised in Tel Aviv, where the Israeli Minister of Innovation, Ofir Akunis, described Italy as one of the most influential countries in Europe and one of the most fruitful partnerships . Tajani also visited Ramallah, where he held talks with his counterpart Riyad al-Maliki, Palestinian Authority President Abu Abbas, and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. The Italian Foreign Affairs Minister recalled training missions by the Carabinieri police forces for the Palestinian Security Forces and Italian Development Cooperation programmes, which included funding projects related to health, gender equality and entrepreneurial activities.
The exchange of institutional visits between the two countries demonstrates not only the excellent conditions of Israeli-Italian relations, but also a clear willingness to increase cooperation in key sectors at the national and global level. Both facing the Mediterranean Sea, Israel and Italy are also actors in the area known as “Broader Mediterranean”. Rich in cultural heritage and specific know-how, they can join forces and make a “quantum leap” in their relations, which will benefit both, said Netanyahu. Perhaps, the Memorandum of Understanding that the Med-Or Foundation signed with the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, during Chairman Marco Minniti’s visit last week, will also contribute to the growth of Israeli-Italian relations.