Italian Government Leader Matteo Salvini visits Israel

By LISA PALMIERI-BILLIG, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
December 11, 2018 07:34
2 minute read.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister and right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini attends a news confe

Italian Deputy Prime Minister and right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini attends a news conference at the Foreign Press Club in Rome, Italy December 10, 2018. . (photo credit: REUTERS/TONY GENTILE)

 
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Italian Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini responding to The Jerusalem Post and other international media at a Rome Foreign Press Association conference on Monday, day before leaving for Israel, stated that "Israel is one of the greatest and most modern democracies on the planet", and his visit needed no other justification.  He again confirmed that "antisemites are imbeciles and delinquents" and that as Interior Minister he would do everything possible to counter it.  Antisemitism is growing in Europe and "Islamic extremism is the prime enemy of civil society and social peace, both in Italy and in Israel", he said.

Asked whether he would propose moving the Italian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he replied smiling, "Let me make this journey in peace for now. You know my views, we can talk again when I return, although I am not the Prime Minister or President of Italy."

Rumors that President Reuven Rivlin had turned down an appointment with him were "false news", he said, since he had "not requested one. Meetings with Israel's Premier, with the Ministers of Justice, of the Interior, and of Tourism are sufficient for a 24 hour visit."  He will also visit with Israel's Italian Jewish Community as well as Yad Vashem (where he had already done on a previous trip).

He will be joined by Israel's Ambassador to Italy, Ofer Sachs, who is already in Jerusalem attending an international ambassadors meeting.  


At the international press meeting in Rome, Interior Minister Salvini defended Italy's much criticized new laws restricting residence permits to "political refugees" while cancelling those for "humanitarian or economic" reasons. He cited statistics regarding illegal migrants who practice criminal activities such as trafficking drugs, prostitution, and unauthorized commercial activities, but also those of the large percentage of integrated, productive, tax-paying immigrants in Italian society. He believes that controlled migration is a weapon against the criminal life-threatening business of the gangs who get paid by desperate refugees to make crossings into Italy from Libya on flimsy rubber rafts.

A letter was published Monday in "La Repubblica", signed by 100 Italian Jews demanding Salvini publicly condemn "the acts of antisemitism and aggression against foreigners, Romas and migrants by Rightist movements and parties in Italy and the rest of Europe."  While, in contrast to countries like France and Belgium, antisemitism very rarely becomes violent in Italy, a silent vigil was organized Monday by Jewish Community and municipal authorities on a Roman street where 20 "stumbling stones" cemented on the sidewalk in memory of victims of Nazi-Fascism 80 years ago, had been vandalized, ripped off and robbed.

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