Rivlin meets with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Jerusalem

Mattarella on four-day tour of Israel; Leaders discuss UNESCO and Israel-Italy relations, including talks on trade, security and future cooperation

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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met with Italian Sergio Mattarella on Monday in Israel, the Italian President’s first visit to Israel and the Middle East. Mattarella arrived in Israel Sunday for a four-day tour where he will meet with Israeli officials and visit Jerusalem’s holy sites amidst ongoing anti-Israel efforts by the United Nations and European Union.

During their meeting, Rivlin offered Israel’s support for Italy following last week’s earthquakes, as well as spoke on UNESCO’s resolutions and on relations between Israel and Italy in the areas of science, culture, sport and security.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi referred to the passing of UNESCO’s resolution as “incomprehensible and unacceptable, it was a mistake,” instructing Italian diplomats to vote in support of Israel in any future anti-Israel resolutions. He stated that “”Suggesting that Jerusalem and Judaism have no connection is like suggesting the sun causes darkness…we have to break with European unity on the subject, so be it.”

A press conference was held where Rivlin offered Israel’s support, the President stating “I want to open by again expressing my sympathies for the many killed in the earthquake in Italy two months ago, and for the suffering and the severe pain caused by the quakes that followed.”

On relations between Israel and Italy, he stated, “We are experiencing a period of unprecedented friendship and brotherhood between Israel and Italy… We are developing trade and advancing relations in the fields of science, culture, sport and security. The bonds between Israel and Italy, and to the European Union, are a foundation stone of our foreign policy. We do not however just share trade, we share values, challenges, and geography. Our countries are neighbors in the Mediterranean, and are highly sensitive to the recent turbulence that has swept the region in the form of waves of migrants, refugees, and in the threat of terror.”

On the fight against global terror, Rivlin stated that “Israel stands beside Italy and the whole free world in the unwavering struggle against terror,” referring to the fight as “a moral battle for the belief in the sanctity of human life”. He spoke of Israel as a leading force in aiding Europe in the fight against Islamic extremism.

Addressing UNESCO, Rivlin referred to his visit to the Arch of Titus in which he saw the “engraving of the Menorah, the candelabra brought from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem”. Rivlin referred to this as “yet another testament to the ancient connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem,” referring to the decision of UNESCO “to raise doubt about the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and to the Holy Temple” as a ”crime against history” thanking Italy for “its commitment to the truth”.

President Mattarella spoke following Rivlin, starting by referring Israel-Italy relations as “the roots of this relationship are planted deep in ancient history”. On relations between the two states, he stated that “Italy sees our relationship with Israel as extraordinary. During the last 15 years, we have had exceptional cooperation in the areas of culture, science and technology, cooperation which allows us to reach ongoing and concrete achievements. Now we are facing the future with even greater determination.”

Referring to Israel as a “vibrant and vital democracy”, Mattarella promised that “Italy will always stand by Israel whenever Israel’s right and duty to exist in peace is left in doubt by any side in the world. There can be no justification for terror. We stand by the side of the innocent victims, and continue to combat in every way violence and incitement, regardless of from where it comes. The struggle against terrorism today is a central point on the international community’s agenda… Israel and Italy are two very stable democracies, and have an important role in international cooperation and peace. I am pleased to see you in Jerusalem, the city which represents Israel’s independence, and which the world relates to with love and dignity.”