Former Italian MP: Incoming Prime Minister Gentiloni Aroused Ire of Current Leader Renzi by Abstaining in Virulently Anti-Israel UNESCO Vote
Italy’s top diplomat, who was just appointed by outgoing Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to replace him as head of the government, is “friendly to Israel like a European; he opposes BDS, for example, but won’t go against the politically correct grain,” a former member of the Italian Parliament told The Algemeiner on Sunday.
Italian-Israeli author and journalist Fiamma Nirenstein — former Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies, among other roles, and current fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank — gave two recent international votes as examples of what she described as Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s attempts not to rock any boats — and his boasting of his close relationship with his counterparts, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The first was the UNESCO resolution, adopted in October, rejecting Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem; the second was a series of anti-Israel UN General Assembly resolutions a few weeks later.
Nirenstein, who was the first journalist in Italy to break the front-page story in Il Giornale that Gentiloni had abstained in the UNESCO vote, rather than opposing it, said that it was a great shock to the public, the press and the prime minister himself.
“When Renzi heard the news, he was furious,” Nirenstein recounted. “So he summoned Gentiloni and asked him, ‘What were you thinking?’ The foreign minister explained to Renzi what he later reiterated in a lengthy interview he gave to [Italian daily] Corriere della Sera — that abstaining was a way of maintaining the ‘automatic mechanism,’ which he thought would be better for Italy’s foreign relations, even with Israel. He said that this way, Italy could still be on Israel’s side, but it also needs Arab money.”
But then, said Nirenstein, he “went ahead and did something worse” at the end of last month at the UN General Assembly: “He voted in favor of the six anti-Israel resolutions put forth by the Palestinians.”
Nirenstein, an expert in antisemitism and global terrorism, was referring to November 29 — the 69th anniversary of the 1947 UN General Assembly passage of the resolution that adopted the plan for the partition of Palestine, which the Jews hailed as the recognition of their right to a sliver of the land of Israel and the Arabs rejected — a date now marked as “Palestine Day” by the same body.
In a follow-up article in Il Giornale, Nirenstein lauded Renzi for calling UNESCO’s recent decision “shocking” and “incredible,” and for calling Gentiloni to task for not having opposed “such a monstrous lie.”
Renzi announced his selection of Gentiloni on Sunday, after resigning when last week’s referendum on constitutional reform was defeated 60%-40% by the Italian public. Renzi had vowed he would step down if he lost the vote, and he made good on his promise on Wednesday.
Gentiloni — whom Nirenstein described as “Mr.-Coming-Up-From-Nowhere,” characterized mainly by his being a “pale” politician” — and whose purported lack of ambition means that he will likely only hold the post until early elections are held sometime in 2017 — is closely aligned with Renzi, the head of the center-left Democratic Party.
Gentiloni will not officially become prime minister until he selects a cabinet and is given a vote of confidence by parliament — a process that reportedly will be completed by the end of this week.