Pope Francis with Ayoub Kara at the Vatican on October 26, 2016.
(photo credit: AYOUB KARA)
The Foreign Ministry issued a rare communique on Shabbat apologizing to Italy for comments Deputy Regional Development Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) made attributing recent earthquakes in Italy to divine retribution for that country’s abstention in a recent UNESCO vote on Jerusalem.
The apology came on the eve of a four-day visit to Israel that began Saturday night by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, and was apparently aimed at fending off a diplomatic incident with Rome over the comments.
Kara was in the Vatican on Wednesday, the day two earthquakes hit central Italy, and issued a statement saying that going through the earthquakes “was not the most comfortable of experiences, but we trusted the Holy See would keep us safe.”
He added, “I’m sure that the earthquake occurred due to the UNESCO decision, which the pope disliked and even said publicly that the Holy Land belongs to the people of Israel.”
Italy was one of the 26 countries that abstained in the October 13 UNESCO executive board vote that erased any Jewish connection to Temple Mount.
Italy did not, however, join five other EU nations in voting against the resolution, though Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promised afterward this would not happen again
, and told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that saying the Jewish people has no connection to Jerusalem is like saying the “sun creates darkness.”
The vote passed 24 to 6, with 26 abstentions.
Following protests from Rome at Kara’s statement, the ministry issued the apology. It condemned the remarks and said “they are unworthy and were better of not having been said.”
The statement said that Kara has since apologized “and we join in that apology.
These words do not reflect the strength of the relationship between Israel and Italy, both the government and the people.”
The statement added that Netanyahu would call Kara in for a “clarification.”