From Egypt to Israel, from Israel to Jordan, from Jordan back to Rome, but passing through Monza and Trento, two stages in the election campaign that looms over the weekend. Antonio Tajani, Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and leader of Forza Italia is on the train that is taking him back to Rome.
In his heart, and unfortunately also in his eyes, the images of the Hamas massacres seen in Israel: “Untellable things… Videos with children, desecration of corpses…. The same as what the Nazis did, or even worse…! Today it is the 80th anniversary of the round-up of the Rome Jewish Ghetto, at the Portico d’Ottavia. Minister Tajani, together with Italian dignitaries (starting with the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella), will be there to reaffirm “the condemnation of anti-Semitism, which is always latent and must be defeated also and above all from a cultural viewpoint”. Earlier, in the morning – after the Council of Ministers – the meeting with the King of Jordan and the Jordanian Foreign Minister, together with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
What do you expect from the King?
“It is a very important visit for us, because Jordan is a fundamental country as a bearer of peace, also considering that the King is the custodian of the holy places in the Holy Land to which, as Christians, we are obviously very attached, also because of their symbolic value”.
But what role can Italy play in this international context?
“We are working tirelessly to free the hostages, to support the Palestinian civilian population and to favour the de-escalation of the conflict. After Israel and Jordan, I will also go to Tunisia”.
There are Italians and Italo-Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. When do you think they will be able to get out?
“As soon as the passage opens. I hope already in the next few hours”.
What is known about the three hostages?
“Little or nothing. The situation is not easy because they could be in the hands of Hamas or Hamas flanking organisations. We asked Egypt and the Arab countries to intervene”.
What was the answer?
“The Egyptian President, Al Sisi, told me he would do everything possible to free them”.
Yesterday there was the stance of all 27 EU Member States, tomorrow there will the extraordinary European Council. What can Europe do?
“Be an actor of peace. It is crucial that the conflict does not expand to Iran and the Lebanon, but remains confined to the war against Hamas”.
Some signals in this sense, even from Putin’s Russia, seem to be coming. Are you confident?
‘The risks that a fiery situation could catch fire are always there”.
“Two peoples, two States” has always been Italy’s position. But is it still viable?
“Of course, it has to be so. Supporting Israel, as Italy is doing, does not mean being against Palestine or the Palestinian people. Quite the reverse. They are victims of Hamas, which uses them as human shields: Israel told them to get out, the terrorists impose them to stay. We say no to terrorism, to evil, to the gruesome images we have seen. But we are obviously working to achieve a definitive stabilisation of the Middle East region”.
Why has the “two peoples, two States” solution not been achieved so far in a complex situation which has been dragging on for more than 70-years?
“Because there are those – and I mean terrorists and fundamentalists – who do not want peace in that region, but conflict with Israel and the Western world. So much so that Hamas has decided to attack now to prevent the peace process, with the Abraham Accords between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and hence moderate Islam“.
Do you have an idea of what the borders of the “two States” should be, with Jerusalem as a shared capital city under the aegis of the international community?
“It is a long and complex process. Any borders shall be established by the parties with the UN supervision and the support of the international community. A distant project which, however, must be pursued vigorously. No one obviously dreams of being able to deny the fact that Israel suffered an undignified, even cowardly attack, taking children and civilians into their homes. A deliberate, premeditated action, and moreover carried out on the day of Shabbat”.
Are you worried about the climate that is spreading into Europe, especially into France with the bomb scares and the evacuations of the Louvre and Versailles?
“We must be very careful and, in fact, also in Italy we have raised the alert level to protect Jewish people and the most sensitive places of worship. Our intelligence services are operating at 360 degrees: in prisons, in the hotspots to avoid fighters coming with migrants. We work with determination, without underestimating anything but also without alarmism: at the moment there are no signs of imminent danger”.
Should pro-Palestine demonstrations therefore not be banned as they were in France?
“Italy is a democratic country. Peaceful demonstrations, for peace in the Middle East or in favour of Palestine, should not be banned. Another thing would obviously be violent demonstrations or even demonstrations in favour of terrorists. I repeat: we are against Hamas, not against Palestine and the Palestinians”.
Defence Minister Crosetto had – at first – thought of cancelling the Armed Forces Day on 4 November, then he revised his stance. Should the celebration be cancelled, in your opinion?
“It will be the Defence and Interior Ministers who will decide, depending on the level of alarm at that time. We are carefully following the evolution of the situation on the border between the Lebanon and Israel, where more than a thousand Italian soldiers are deployed in the UNIFIL mission. My thoughts go out to them and there is full support for their very delicate mission”.
Is there hope that by 4 November the war will be over?
“It is impossible to make predictions. We are all obviously working so that the war ends as soon as possible, and for this to happen it is essential that there is no spreading of the conflict with the involvement of Iran and the Lebanon, which would only cause huge damage, with a Middle East in flames”.
All things considered, apart from the tragic attack on the Jewish Ghetto in 1982, where the child Stefano Gaj Taché died, there have been no jihad-related terrorist attacks in Italy. Why is this in your opinion?
“Because Italy has always had good relations with the Arab world, also and not only because of its position in the Mediterranean. Although we are friends of Israel, we have always played the role of bearers of peace, without ever being aggressive, not even in tone or words”.