ROME: Italy has objected to Israel’s intention to nominate the mayor of one of the main West Bank settlements as ambassador to Rome, a diplomatic source said Thursday.
In July, the Israel’s foreign ministry put forward the name of Benny Kashriel, mayor of Ma’ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, to succeed Alon Bar, a career diplomat due to retire in the summer of 2024.
Italy’s right-wing coalition government led by Giorgia Meloni supports Israel in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, begun after the unprecedented October 7 attack against Israel.
But Rome also considers that the settlements established in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 - and deemed illegal by the United Nations - are an obstacle to peace.
Kashriel, 72, has been mayor of the urban settlement of nearly 40,000 inhabitants since 1992, and heads a local branch of the right-wing Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Between 1999 and 2001, he also chaired the Yesha Council, an organisation representing settlements in the Palestinian territories.
In announcing his name, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Kashriel’s experience on issues of “security and regional stability”, as well as economic and energy issues, would be an asset.
Israel has not yet submitted an official request to Rome for accreditation.
But a diplomatic source told AFP, confirming press reports, that Italian authorities had sent a number of messages indicating that they considered the appointment inappropriate.
Contacted by AFP, Israel’s foreign ministry declined to comment.
Rome defends a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem, a position reiterated by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani after the October 7 attacks.
This solution “must conform to the parameters set by international law and by the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, said Tajani.
Italy has also embarked on a vast diplomatic effort in Arab countries to diversify its supplies of energy and raw materials following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rome has repeatedly called on its ally Israel to “do everything possible to preserve civilian life” in the Gaza Strip.