Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited new Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to visit Israel, while officials in Jerusalem said Monday that Italy under the center-left leader will likely continue to be among the more supportive countries toward Israel in the EU.
The 39-year leader of the Democratic Party (PD), a former mayor of Florence, was sworn in as Italy's new leader on Saturday. Officials in Jerusalem said he does not carry the baggage that others on the European left have with Israel, and will not give his hand to efforts to de-legitimize Israel.
Former ambassador to Italy Gideon Meir said that Renzi is coming "from a good place," and that if does voice criticism it will not be the result of an anti-Israel predilection, but rather from a "place of constructive criticism." Renzi, in a debate in 2012, swam against the European center-left tide by calling Iran the "mother of all challenges" in the Mideast, and calling for support for liberalizing forces inside the country. He also articulated reservations to Italy's vote in favor of the Palestinian bid in 2012 for non-member state status in the UN.
Netanyahu, in a congratulatory conversation with Renzi Sunday evening, stressed Italy's important role in the international arena and its support in thwarting boycotts against Israel. According to Netanyahu's office, the two men spoke positively about the "productive cooperation" between the two countries, and expressed the hope that this cooperation would l expand and grow.