Israel cautions Italy about Rouhani visit to Rome

'Don't think only about business', ambassador at ANSA forum

29 October, 17:47

    Israeli ambassador to Rome Naor Gilon Israeli ambassador to Rome Naor Gilon

    (by Elisa Pinna).  - ROME - Business is business, but Israel has called on Italy to maintain a ''highly consistent'' position towards Tehran during Iranian president Hassan Rouhani's first visit to Europe.

    Israeli ambassador to Rome Naor Gilon - who spoke on Thursday at a forum hosted by ANSA with its editor-in-chief Luigi Contu - said that Italy must keep in mind Iran's ''destabilizing'' role in the Middle East, its continuing threats to destroy the State of Israel and its human rights violations. Rouhani will be in Italy on November 14-15 on the first stop of a European trip that will afterwards take him to Paris. He will be meeting with President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi as well as Pope Francis, as Iranian sources announced on Thursday.

    He will be the second head of state of the Iranian Islamic Republic ever to enter the Vatican, after Mohamed Khatami did in 1999. ''I understand everyone's desire to do business, but I hope that everyone in Europe will be consistent,'' underscored Ambassador Gilon at the forum. He added that Iran acts as a destabilizing force in the Middle East and that the agreement on Iranian nuclear power aggravates the current instability, since it has freed Tehran of economic and military pressure without eliminating its nuclear capabilities and facilities. Gilon said that he was strongly against inviting Iran to the talks on Syria, which will be held on Friday in Vienna. ''This means, among other things,'' he said, ''considering Assad (who Iran supports, Ed.) part of the solution, while instead he is part of the problem.'' The Israeli ambassador underscored that ''every week'' Iranian high-ranking officials say that their aim is to destroy the State of Israel. He also noted that Iran executes 1,000 people every year and that religious minorities such as the Baha'i are persecuted. ''I hope and expect these issues to be brought up in the talks with Rouhani,'' he said.

    On the latest wave of violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Gilon said that he believed it should not be called a ''third intifada'' and that the attacks ''are ever more limited''. ''None of the parties involved want a Third Intifada,'' he said, noting that however the youngest generation of Palestinians remain an incognito, raised as they were in the ''culture of hate'' against Jews. Some ''80% of Palestinians are anti-Semitic'', he said. ''And when ethnicity and religion enter the conflict, it becomes much more difficult to find a solution.'' The ambassador said that only in places controlled by Israel ''can everyone pray freely'', criticizing the UNESCO attempt ''shelved for the time being'', but on which ''Italy was abstaining'', to pass a motion to restore Jerusalem's religious status quo to what it was in 1967, when Jews could not pray at the Wailing Wall - which at that time was under Jordanian control. The ambassador reiterated that Israel has pledged to respect and defend, however, the fact that only Muslims can pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex (known as Temple Mount in Israel). He also defended the actions of the Israeli army when they shoot at those armed with knives. ''There is no alternative,'' he said. ''Those prepared to stab a soldier or an Israeli civilian cannot take into consideration that they may not come out of it alive.'' On his years as ambassador to Rome, Gilon said that there had always been excellent relations between Italy and Israel and praised the collaboration on Expo Milano 2015, saying that ''everything went well''. ''I have been spoiled in Italy. It will be difficult to choose another destination for me,'' he joked in referring to the end of his mandate next summer. On Fiamma Nirenstein, a journalist and former MP from Italy's center-right Popolo della Libertà (PdL, led by Silvio Berlusconi), who has already been indicated as his successor, he simple said that ''dual nationality is allowed for Israeli ambassadors in many countries. It is not unusual in any way.''

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