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Tajani: ” Settlers should not incite violence. On the finance bill, Prime Minister Meloni has listened to us” (La Stampa)

Intervista Ministro Antonio Tajani (La Stampa)
Intervista Ministro Antonio Tajani (La Stampa)

«We have always said that Hamas is a terrorist organisation. We are with Israel, but on both sides the first concern must be for civilians. Israel’s reaction must be proportionate. This is also a warning to the settlers. Neither they nor Palestinian groups must encourage violence against the civilian population». Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has just got over the final adjustments on the finance bill, which he assures «will have no amendments». He takes off his hat as leader of Forza Italia and deputy Prime Minister “satisfied with the introduction of the “identification code” for those who rent houses or turn them into B&B, an anti-evasion measure”, as he said, and puts back on that of Foreign Minister to follow the developments of the war in the Middle East. Today he will be in Turin with his French counterpart Colonna, at the first meeting of the Italian-French border cooperation Committee. Clear news arrives from Israel: “No to the ceasefire”, as Prime Minister Netanyahu announced. Diplomacy goes on to free the hostages. But meanwhile the conditions of the Gazawi population are increasingly tragic and inhuman.

Minister, yesterday the first flight with Italian humanitarian aid landed in Egypt. Do you know when it will be possible for it to enter Gaza?
«We were among the first countries to send aid and basic necessities, which left from Brindisi and arrived at the Egyptian airport of Al-Arish. Our Ambassador handed them over to the Egyptian Red Crescent. There are 150 tents, 100 blankets, 60 chemical toilets, 2 containers of 10 thousand litres of water, worth 60 thousand euros. Tomorrow (today for our readers, ed.), another Air Force flight will leave. Let us see when they will let them pass through Rafah. I am confident, the trucks are coming in».

Those who do not pass through the Gaza-Egypt crossing, instead, are civilians, foreign nationals and Palestinians. Among them, 14 Italians and 5 family members. How do you plan to get them out?
«Our Consulate in Jerusalem maintains contacts, although we start to have communication problems. Before they were in the UN areas, now there is tension. We are working to facilitate their exit. I have just talked with the Jordanian Minister, Al Safadi. Jordan is one of the voices of a moderate Arab world that is helping de-escalation».

Italy abstained on the UN resolution pushing for a ceasefire. Now, you are asking for a truce to let aid in. Have you changed your mind?
«Aid is coming in anyway. What is needed is for aid to come in more consistently, to get to the areas furthest from the south. We need to make sure it does not end up in the hands of Hamas. We all keep saying privately and publicly – President Biden in the first place – that we need a truce for aid».

Has Israel crossed the red line on the rights of Gazawi civilians?
«We must avoid escalation, and not encourage violence on both sides. This applies to the settlers in the West Bank and to the Palestinians. The settlers must also be cautious. We are friends of Israel, but we have to understand what the conditions are. It is a heated situation. It is the most difficult time for diplomacy. What we can do is convey peace messages, urge the release of civilians, send aid, call for the Palestinian civilian population to be kept out of Israel’s reaction».

Do you fear a widening of the conflict, from the West Bank to the Lebanon, or worse?
«I do not think Hezbollah will invade of Israel. I would not call these days’ conflicts mere skirmishes, but right now we do not see a generalised clash in southern Lebanon. The goal towards which we have to work is two peoples, two States».

This seems a horizon never so far away.
«Palestine has a right to its own State. The only way to burn the ground from under Hamas’s feet is to give a prospect for this aspiration. This is the solution that must obviously recognise the State of Israel, which cannot be considered a joke on the map, as some fundamentalists think».

President Erdogan not only defends Hamas militants, calling them “liberators and not terrorists”, but he also calls Israel a “war criminal” and the West “responsible for the ongoing massacre in Gaza”. Does his behaviour risk opening a crisis with a NATO Member State?
«We have always been clear about what we think of Hamas, i.e. that it is a terrorist organisation. It is not up to us to light on other fuses».

Two conflicts close to the West, involving it in various ways: Ukraine and now Israel. Do you fear a welding together of Russia, Iran and Hamas?
«There is real concern: Russia is trying to take advantage of what is happening in the Middle East. We have to defuse the situations that can jeopardise peace. We stand with Ukraine, but we are not at war with Russia. Iran should understand that it is not useful to supply weapons to Hamas. There are moderate Islamic countries, ranging from Jordan to Egypt, and Tunisia itself, which are working to lower tension. It does not mean that they are not supportive of the Palestinians».

Is the anti-Semitism alarm rising also in Italy?
«Less than elsewhere, fortunately. We must certainly condemn with all our efforts and prevent scenes like those in the Dagestan airport, with the hunt for Jews. The same applies to Islamophobia».

What about the terror alert?
«We must not be afraid or change our lifestyles, because this plays into the hands of terrorists. We are very careful and sensitive to possible radicalisation, in prisons and outside».

You announced the eighth aid package for Ukraine. Is it confirmed?
«Yes, it is, on a political level. The Defence Ministry is taking care of the military aspects».

A few considerations on the finance bill: your government will go down in history for having lowered the pensions of two categories of civil servants, namely nurses and municipal employees (some 700,000 people). How will you explain this to them?
«We shall see what can be done. So many salaries have gone up, others have gone down. We could not do more».

What about the 26 per cent tax rate on the second house rented?
«With Prime Minister Meloni we have come to an agreement: renting a first home is a way to supplement income, from the second onwards it becomes a kind of real estate business. We believe something can be done on this type of activity. It accounts for 25% of rents. For 75% the rate is 21%».

As to presidentialism, will you go ahead even against the opposition parties?
«We listened to them. We can discuss, but we cannot accept vetoes. We will go ahead anyway, even if the opposition parties are not happy. In a parliamentary democracy you vote and the majority wins».

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