Bepi Pezzulli
International counsel & foreign policy adviser

Italy to put distance between peace and rethoric

Piero Fassino, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Italian Lower House, along with its Vice President Paolo Formentini and Marta Grande, President of the Parliamentary Group Friends of Israel, held a videoconference with a delegation of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset led by Chairman Zvi Hauser and composed of MPs Gideon Saar and Avi Dikter – Israeli counterparts to the Group.

Fassino declared that he intends to reactivate parliamentary cooperation and, in general, parliamentary diplomacy, which he views as a useful tool for building “peace solutions” in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

The issues discussed by the delegations were the impact of the Abraham Accords on Israeli-Arab relations in general and on Israeli-Palestinian relations in particular. Other issues discussed included rising tensions in the Middle East in the aftermath of the blast at the Port of Beirut in August 2020, growing instability in the Eastern Mediterranean as a consequence of Turkey’s increasing regional activism and the current situation in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is seeing a marked increase in Islamic fundamentalism.

“The Abraham Accords – said Fassino – have contributed to the stability and pacification of the region, but other steps ought to follow. First and foremost, the revival of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to reach a peace accord based on the principle of two states for two people.”

Fassino, a seasoned politician who served as Italy’s Undersecretary of State to the Foreign Office in former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s cabinet from 1996 to 1998, continues to commit two crucial mistakes however. First, he equates two States with two democracies. Second, he fails to grasp that in 73 years of conflict, the Palestinians have never made the conflict with Israel a territorial issue as much as an existential dogma, negating the right to exist to a Jewish State on land considered Islam. Only the Trump Administration, through its plan proposed in January 2020, has thoroughly unveiled this truth. It is for this reason that its proposed peace plan firmly declares that no real peace treaty can occur unless Israel’s right to exist is acknowledged by the Palestinians.

“Italy and Israel – stressed Fassino – are friends united by history, geopolitics, economic cooperation, cultural relations and the painfully shared experience of terrorism.” On the latter he added, “Italy is firmly committed to battle [political violence] in all its forms because no cause can lend legitimacy to domestic or international terrorism. Likewise, Italy and the Italian Parliament are committed to the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.”

Granted, Fassino has been more sympathetic to Israel than his colleagues who rose through the ranks of the late Italian Communist Party (PCI). His former boss and longlasting mentor Massimo D’Alema infamously stated that “Italy [was] equidistant from Israel and Palestine.” Yet, for all his good intentions, Fassino is anchored to an outdated narrative that places him on the wrong side of history. Firmly committed to the formula of “land for peace,” he should understand the new Middle East reality of seeking “peace for economic development and regional stability” instead. As the new world order takes shape, Italian foreign policy needs to take a clear-cut position. The signing of the Abraham Accords has consolidated the relationship between Israel and the Arab monarchies in a mutual battle against political Islam, particularly that advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which provides aid and support to Hamas in Gaza. The Middle East has changed beyond measure: the Palestine cause is no longer an excuse in which to conceal the outrageous failures perpetuated by Arab governance. It is now time for a fresh approach. U.S. President Donald J. Trump did just  that.

Rather than fighting a rear guard battle, giving full support to the Trump peace plan would be more helpful. It would not only place Italy’s political capital where the country’s mouth is, but also lead to the advancement of a viable solution that finally puts some distance between peace and rhetoric.

About the Author
Bepi Pezzulli is a Solicitor specialised in International law and a foreign policy adviser covering Israel, the UK and the US. In 2018, he published "The other Brexit" (Milano Finanza Books), investigating the economic and geopolitical implications of Brexit. Currently, he is Editor-in-Chief of La Voce Repubblicana; a columnist for the Italian daily financial newspaper Milano Finanza; and a pundit for the financial TV channel CNBC. He received degrees at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome (LLB), New York University (LLM), and Columbia University (JD).
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