While Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini was meeting with the Israeli leadership on Wednesday, a European summit was being held to decide on nominations for a successor to Catherine Ashton as the EU’s foreign policy chief.
Mogherini has been mentioned in recent weeks as a leading candidate although the Baltic States had some reservations about her with regard to how she would relate to Russia.
Italy currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU and influential Italians from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi downwards have been actively lobbying on her behalf.
Mogherini, who arrived in Israel on Tuesday, and is due to leave for Egypt on Thursday, was taken to Ashdod by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on the day that she landed.
At a meeting with President Shimon Peres on Wednesday morning she said that her visit to Israel had been planned several weeks in advance, but had become more significant in the current climate. She thought that it was important to get a close up view of the dynamics of the situation, and had seen for herself the strong physical and psychological pressures that had been put on the people. “As a mother, I understand” she said, but noted that at the same time that the number of victims in Gaza was dismaying.
Speaking not only on Italy’s behalf, Mogherini said that anything that Europe and the United States can do to help bring about a ceasefire will be done.. She has spoken to several of her European counterparts in recent days.
She hoped that Hamas would accept a ceasefire so that it would be possible to resume the peace talks, she said.
“The region is tense with the risk of radicalization” she noted, and was also concerned that ongoing hostilities would lead to an escalation of anti-Semitism.
For this reason, she thought it essential to reach an immediate ceasefire and to find a more creative way in which to get the political talks back on track and to move forward.
Peres noted that in previous battles the situation had been one of Arabs against Jews, but now it’s not so much Arabs against Jews as those who are for terror and those who are against terror.
Hamas, which is not democratic and has created tremendous damage both in Israel and Gaza he said, imposes terror.
The Israel Air Force has tried to avoid hitting civilians and has even issued warnings to allow people to get out of their homes in time, said Peres, adding that there have been instances when retaliation by the IAF has been aborted because the pilot saw children in the targeted area.
In addition he underscored, Israel has allowed entry of food, medical supplies and other essentials into Gaza, despite the rain of rockets.
Israel appreciates the clear stand that has been taken against Hamas by the European Union and the United States, he said, emphasizing that Israel is looking for ways in which to renew the political negotiations because she wants to see permanent peace.