‘Israel’s present government is stubborn’
Lapo Pistelli, foreign affairs director for Italy’s Democratic Party, speaks to the ‘Post’ about his movement’s Mideast policy.
Lapo Pistelli Photo: Policy Network / Creative Commons License
ROME – Italians will elect a new government in February, and the Center- Left,
currently in the opposition, is defining its political platform. Lapo Pistelli,
the Democratic Party’s foreign affairs director, explains his view on the Middle
Italy’s vote in the General Assembly last month in favor of
granting “Palestine” observer state status at the UN does not signify a
lessening of support for Israel’s security or future, says the representative of
Italy’s second-largest party.
“We have to stop thinking in terms of being
friends of one side and not the other,” Pistelli says.
“I love Israel,
I’ve been there and in the Palestinian territories many times. Israel is one of
the hearts of the world and an outpost of Western culture and democracy. Its
present government is stubborn, but that doesn’t mean I love Israel less. I
disapproved of [former premier Silvio] Berlusconi’s policies, but didn’t stop
“I’m convinced Israel holds the key to peace in the
Mediterranean. The UN vote was meant to strengthen Abu Mazen’s [Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s] position and gather more Palestinian
support for the two-state solution.”
Israel finds the UN vote bypassed
and weakened the Oslo process.
But nothing was moving, so actually it
interrupted nothing, Pistelli says.
You and Democratic Party Secretary
Pier Luigi Bersani met with Abbas this week after his meetings in Rome with the
pope, and the president and premier of Italy. He came to thank Italy for its
vote, but what were his proposals?
He said he is ready to return to negotiations
for a two-state solution, and is awaiting eventual propositions from the
European Quintet [Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the UK]. However, the new
housing project [over the Green Line] is an obstacle. Even the US has criticized
Israel on this.
Signs of good will are needed.
Two years ago,
Israel froze settlements for a 10-month period to encourage the peace process,
but President Mazen did not show up for talks. Why was that?
...20 years of
But why didn’t he take advantage of the freeze at
Not enough confidence building, and mistakes on both sides. But we
must move ahead and persuade Israelis and Palestinians they must open and
complete peace negotiations in 2013. The blueprints are already known and have
been fine-combed point by point time and again by the highest political and
military experts of both peoples: Jerusalem as capitol of two states; the 1967
borders with land swaps; and a “moral recompense” to settle the Palestinian
Abu Mazen considers the return of approximately 5 million
refugees as totally unrealistic.
Israel’s highest authority and Nobel
Peace Prize winner, President Shimon Peres, said he hopes the first thing on
Israel’s agenda after national elections will be a return to the negotiating
Strangely enough, Italian media practically ignored Mahmoud
Abbas’s visit Sunday and Monday. Why?
That’s Italian media!
did you give President Abbas?
Don’t begin asking for preconditions for peace
talks; don’t take undue advantage of his UN victory: don’t aim for further
recognition by other specialized UN agencies; don’t move a case against Israel
at the International Court of Justice. Such moves would all block the peace
process. For the same reason, we ask Israel to stop settlements and not withhold
the PA’s tax revenue.
Why does Italy refuse to call for placing Hezbollah
on the list of international terrorist organizations?
We must not forget that
Hezbollah is a political party legitimately elected in Lebanon, where it
represents the second-largest minority.
Italy participates in the UNIFIL
border patrol and has relations with Lebanon as with all Arab and Muslim
countries in the area. We are first or second partners of all the new Arab
Spring governments, helping midwife their new democracies.
It will take
time, but we must help bring about this change.
If the Israel-Palestine
issue were solved, chances for a peaceful evolution would be much
Mahmoud Abbas represents only one part of the Palestinian
people. Hamas continues to shout for Israel’s annihilation. In this
situation how can Israel’s future security be guaranteed?
Extremists win the day
when the moderates fail.
If Abbas brought home peace and a state, Hamas
would be defeated and the entire region would recognize Israel (as also outlined
in the Saudi Peace Initiative).
The area is in flux, intra-Muslim
alliances between Shi’ites and Sunnis are shifting. Moving forward and becoming
a positive force in creating new democracies in its neighborhood is to Israel’s
We don’t want Israel to sink into introspective
What about the Iranian threat?
We agree with the EU and US
two-track strategy: pressure plus negotiations.
The embargo has
effectively brought down Iran’s economy; elections are coming up and Ahmadinejad
is expected to leave the scene.
Iran must remain part of the Non-
Proliferation Pact countries and subject to IAEA inspections – otherwise we
would have another [North] Korea bordering on Europe. We must prevent its
obtaining military nuclear capability but are against a military strike, which
would be neither logical nor useful.