[Jerusalem] Israel ready to help Italy become energy hub – Netanyahu 

Middle East Monitor  /  March 10, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Friday he wanted to export gas to Europe via Italy, telling his Italian counterpart, Giorgia Meloni, there was room for much greater cooperation between the two countries, Reuters reports.

Netanyahu is spending three days in Rome, meeting political and business leaders.

In a brief statement following talks with Meloni, Netanyahu made no mention of the mass protests back home over a contested judicial reform, or the surprise announcement that Saudi Arabia was resuming diplomatic ties with Israel’s arch-enemy, Iran.

Instead, he offered to forge deeper ties with Italy in an array of sectors, including water, cyber-security and energy.

“Italy has said it wants to be a hub for the supply of energy for Europe. We think exactly that and we have gas reserves that we are now exporting and we would like to expedite more gas exports to Europe through Italy,” he said.

Italy is committed to replacing its imports of energy from Russia in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year and wants to take advantage of this to become a major transporter of gas from North Africa and the Mediterranean.

Israel signed an initial agreement in November with Eni and TotalEnergies that allows the energy companies to start exploring for natural gas within the framework of a landmark maritime border deal with Lebanon.

“There is now a participation of Eni in our gas projects, but we think we can carry it to a much higher level,” Netanyahu said. He added that Italian and Israeli ministers would meet in Israel in the coming months for bilateral talks.

“(We) will address perhaps a dozen areas of mutual cooperation to the benefit of Italy and Israel alike,” he said.

In a newspaper interview ahead of his trip to Rome, Netanyahu said he would ask Meloni to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Neither he nor Meloni mentioned this issue on Friday.


Netanyahu, Meloni discuss cooperation between Israel, Italy

Middle East Monitor  /  March 11, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome on Friday, while dozens demonstrated against the plan to weaken the judiciary in the Italian capital, coinciding with the meeting between the two officials.

The Italian prime minister expressed concern about the escalation between Israel and the Palestinians, stating: “Italy is willing to do whatever we can to de-escalate violence, which is worrying for everyone.”

She pointed out that Israel is a friendly partner country, and the two countries will improve relations in the field of innovation, including artificial intelligence.

Concerning the water crisis Italy faces, Meloni conveyed: “We discussed the issue of water, and Israel has done a great job in this field. This is one of the many areas that can be improved through our cooperation. A session will be held between the two governments in Israel as soon as possible for the first time since 2013.”

Meloni expressed Italy’s support for Israel’s normalization agreements with several countries.

Netanyahu added: “The friendship between Italy and Israel has been a long one and a growing one, but I think it’s about to take on an even greater dimension. I think there is room here for enormous collaboration and improvement.” He also praised Meloni’s vision and initiative to strengthen relations between the two countries.

Netanyahu noted that Israel has dealt with a water problem and will help Italy, adding: “Israel is ready to do more and increase its gas export capacity to Italy and Europe.” The two sides also discussed cooperation in cybersecurity and other fields, mentioning that the two governments will hold a session in a few months to enhance cooperation.

Netanyahu invited his counterpart Meloni to visit Israel to discuss how to strengthen relations.

Coinciding with Netanyahu and Meloni’s meeting, a protest was organized in Rome with the participation of dozens of demonstrators against the plan to weaken the Israeli judiciary.

Netanyahu and Meloni’s meeting was preceded by the first meeting with dozens of businesspeople and representatives of major companies in Italy. He also met with the Jewish communities in a synagogue in Rome who expressed their concern about the “judicial reform” in Israel.

The head of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities criticized the plan to weaken the judiciary: “The importance of the proposed changes leads us to assert that there must be broad discussions and consensus, and it is understood that the elected majority proposes and encourages, but government responsibility means awareness of the centrality of these changes even in the long term. The pride we feel in Israeli institutions must continue and not be a thing of the past.”