Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini looks on during a news conference in Rome, Italy, on June 20, 2018. .
(photo credit: STEFANO RELLANDINI/REUTERS)
Salvini arrived on Wednesday, and immediately helicoptered to the north to view the work the IDF was doing to uncover the tunnels.
“There is a clear threat from the north,” he said. “I repeat my condition, those who want peace, need to support and defend Israel.”
Salvini is the leader of the far-right Northern League Party, and know for a stridently anti-immigration policy. He is is the latest in a list of right-wing politicians to visit Israel, and whose visits have triggered criticism. Hungarian President Viktor Orban visited in July, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte came in September.
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg said of Salvini's visit that “it is unfortunate, but not surprising, to discover another one of the leaders who are warmly welcomed by the Israeli government.”
Zandberg said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign policy “consistently and systematically strives to to lead Israel to alliances with the most dubious figures in world politics at the expense of liberal democracies. Instead of freedom, equality and rights, Netanyahu reaches out to fascist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic leaders.”
She praise President Reuven Rivlin for not finding the time to meet Salvinii, saying this was “one ray of light.” In a recent CNN interview on growing antisemitism in Europe, Rivlin said of support from Israel from the far-right that “you cannot say ‘we admire Israel and want relations with your country, but we are neo-fascists.’"
Salvini tweeted from that north that he is is in the country to forge an even closer relationship between Israeli and Italian schools, universities and businesses, to cooperate in scientific and health research, and to strengthen collaboration friendship between the Italian and Israeli people.
Following his visit to the border, he came to jerusalem and met with Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem , and with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. He is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and go to Yad Vashem
He noted at his press conference that this was his fourth time in Israel, and his fourth time at yad Vashem. He said that he understands that there are people bothered by his visit to the country and Yad Vashem in his current government roles, but that they will get over it.
Salvini said that his government fights against the antisemitism that is on the rise in Europe, and attributed the rise to Muslim immigration. This is something that Erdan, during their meeting, said as well
Salvini said during this meeting with Erdan that he was proud to be in Jerusalem, “the capital of Israel.” However, asked at the press conference whether italy intended to move its embassy to Jerusalem, he said that this was not on the agenda.
Erdan asked Slavini to try to influence the current head of UNIFIL, Maj.-Gen. Stefano Del Col,who is Italian, to be proactive in implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for no armed forces other than the lebanese army to be in southern Lebanon.