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Bepi Pezzulli
International counsel & foreign policy adviser

Italy Amends Cyber Bill to Include Israeli Firms

Israeli technology (Credit: Shahadat Rahman - Unsplash)

In a stereotypical Italian job, Rome pulled an 11th-hour move to mend diplomatic ties with Israel. After their initial decisions landed them in the eye of the hurricane, the Lower House of the Italian Parliament approved an amendment to their cybersecurity bill, averting a potential rift over the exclusion of Israeli firms from marketing their technology to local clients. This development, which unfolded on Yom HaAtzmahut (Israel’s Independence Day), underscores the intricate balance between misguided national security concerns and critical international alliances.

A Controversial Exclusion

The controversy began last week when the majority parties in Italy’s Constitutional Affairs and Justice Committees voted on an amendment to the cybersecurity bill that effectively sidelined Israeli companies. The amendment introduced in the draft bill Article 10, aimed to incentivize the domestic use of cyber technology from Italian firms, EU member countries, or NATO countries—excluding Israeli tech firms by default, as Israel is not a NATO member. This decision sparked significant concern, given Israel’s stature as a leader in cybersecurity.

The Diplomatic Fallout

The news quickly gained traction, with Italian media, most of which tend to align with the Palestinian perspective in the Middle East conflict, highlighting the implications of the exclusion on foreign policy. The diplomatic incident emerged against the backdrop of ongoing hybrid warfare in the Gaza War, placing additional strain on the already complex international relations.

Legislative Response

In response to the backlash, Italian lawmakers swiftly moved to amend the contentious provision. As the bill reached the Chamber of Deputies, new amendments were introduced to rectify the situation and prevent the exclusion of Israeli firms. In particular, Andrea Orsini (Forza Italia) tabled an amendment to extend the reward criteria to include cyber technologies from third countries associated with EU research and innovation programs; while Ettore Rosato (Azione) tabled an amendment to include countries with which Italy has security or cybersecurity cooperation agreements.

A Unified Front

Ultimately, the Chamber of Deputies consolidated the amendments by Orsini and Rosato into a single reformulated version. The revised text now states that the reward criteria will include “third countries identified by decree among those that are part of collaboration agreements with the European Union or NATO on cybersecurity, classified information protection, research, and innovation.” This inclusion ensures that Israeli companies, which are involved in numerous EU and NATO collaborative efforts, are not excluded from the Italian market.

Moving Forward

This legislative adjustment marks a crucial step in maintaining and strengthening Italy-Israel relations, especially in the strategically vital field of cybersecurity. It reflects a broader recognition of the importance of global cooperation in addressing cyber threats and the role of Israeli expertise in this domain.

As nations navigate the complexities of cybersecurity and diplomacy, this episode serves as a reminder of the delicate balance required to uphold both national security interests and important international partnerships. For Israel, it is a reaffirmation of its pivotal role on the global stage, particularly in technological and security arenas.

In this instance, the worst was narrowly averted. But, in Italy’s governance process chaos is not just an option, it’s practically tradition.

About the Author
Giuseppe Levi Pezzulli ("Bepi") is a Solicitor specialised in International financial law and a foreign policy scholar. His research interest is economic statecraft. In 2018, he published "An alternative view of Brexit" (Milano Finanza Books), which investigates the economic and geopolitical implications of Brexit. In 2023, "Brave bucks" (Armando Publishing House), which highlights the role of private capital in the industrial policy mix. Formerly an Editor-in-Chief of La Voce Repubblicana; is a columnist for the Italian daily financial newspaper Milano Finanza; a pundit for the financial TV channel CNBC; and a Middle East analyst for Longitude magazine. He received degrees at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome (LLB), New York University (LLM), and Columbia University (JD).
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