Italian politician Matteo Salvini said in an interview that if his party wins in the next elections, he intends to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The next Italian general election is due to be held no later than 28 May 2023. Lega Nord, Salvini’s party, is currently polling in the lead with over 30% of the electorate. Lega Nord is considered to be on the far-right wing of the political spectrum.
If elected, Salvini will join the ranks of other right-wing leaders being elected around the globe. Salvini met Trump on the campaign trail in 2016 and promptly endorsed him. In 2018, Salvini endorsed conservative nationalist candidate Jair Bolsonaro in the Brazilian presidential election that year.
Salvini is a staunch supporter of Israel. He has been critical of Iranian policy towards Israel and expressed skepticism towards the Iran nuclear deal. He considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, contradicting the official stance of the Italian government.
On Monday, an Italian senate committee voted to remove Salvini’s immunity in a case in which he stands accused of allegedly illegally detaining migrants at sea last year. The committee decision follows a Sicilian court recommendation to try Salvini for blocking migrants on a coast guard boat last July. Salvini refused to allow 131 rescued migrants off the Gregoretti coast guard boat until a deal was reached with other European states to host them. The immigrants remained on board for almost a week. This was the second time Salvini detained illegal immigrants in this manner. If convicted, Salvini could be sentenced to up to 15 years in jail.
ROME JERUSALEM CONNECTION: MESSIAH AT THE GATES OF ROME
Italy’s embassy to Israel is currently in the metropolitan center of Israel, Tel Aviv. It is interesting to note that the Vatican’s embassy to Israel is also in Tel Aviv. The Vatican formally recognized Palestine as a state in February 2013 and the Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine was signed on June 26, 2015.
Though the relations between the Jews and Rome, the seat of Catholicism, have been historically difficult, Rome is a part of Jewish eschatology. A Midrash (homiletic teaching) in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) describes a meeting between a rabbi and the Messiah at the gates of Rome.
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi (who lived in the first half of the third century), was meditating near the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai when he was visited by the Prophet Elijah. “When will the Messiah come?” asked Joshua.
“Go and ask the Messiah,” replied the Prophet. “He is at the gates of Rome, sitting among the poor, the sick and wretched. Like them, he changes the bindings of his wounds, but does so one wound at the time, in order to be ready at a moment’s notice.”
Then Joshua went to Rome and met the Messiah and greeted him, saying “Peace upon thee, Master and Teacher.
The Messiah replied “peace upon thee, O son of Levi.”
Joshua then asked “When will you be coming?”
The Messiah replied, “Today!”
Joshua went back to Elijah and was asked what the Messiah said.
“‘Peace upon thee, O son of Levi’, Joshua replied, and Elijah told him that that meant that he and his father would have a place in the world to come. Joshua then said that the Messiah had not told him the truth, because he had promised to come today but had not. Elijah explained “This is what he said to thee, To-day, if ye will hear his voice.”
This was a reference to Psalms.
For He is our God, and we are the people He tends, the flock in His care. O, if you would but heed His charge this day Pslams 95:7
The commentators explain this as meaning that the coming of the Messiah is conditional and the condition had not been fulfilled.
Salvini was interviewed by Israeli daily Israel Hayom:
Q: Seventy-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz, why are we again experiencing a surge in anti-Semitism in Europe?
A: I think that it has to do with the strengthening of Islamic extremism and fanaticism in [recent] years. Most importantly it is connected to the fact that some academics and media are mobilized against Israel and they create hate of Israel to justify anti-Semitism. There is, of course, anti-Semitism of small political minority groups—Nazis and communists. But now the massive presence in Europe of migrants coming from Muslim countries, among whom are many fanatics who are getting the full support of certain intellectuals, is spreading anti-Semitism, in Italy as well.
Q: But we are being told that this anti-Semitism is connected to the rise of new right-wing parties in Europe.
A: There is far-right anti-Semitism, and there is a far-left anti-Semitism, that is institutionalized. Think of [British Labour Leader] Jeremy Corbyn, or the leftist activists in Germany, who didn’t want to be like the Nazis and ended up boycotting Israeli products. I am sure, however, that the high number of Muslims in Europe is the main cause for the current anti-Semitism.
Q: You are being accused of having contacts with political organizations that are anti-Semitic. What is your reaction to this accusation?
A: We [Lega] have no relations whatsoever with such organizations. In the elections, parties like Forza Nuova, CasaPound [and] Fiamma are running against us. So there are no contacts with them. Those who believe in neo-Nazi and neo-fascist anti-Semitism are our enemies, as [are] those who believe in the anti-Semitism of the radical left and radical Islam. It’s an obligation to fight all those who claim that the Jews are the Nazis of our time.
Q: Why is it important to you that Italy adopts the international definition of anti-Semitism?
A: To put an end to the hypocrisy of the left-wing parties, which are talking about boycotting Israel. Now, among the parties sitting in the government, there is a support for the state of Palestine, for Venezuela and Iran. The definition is going to clarify their positions, like the one regarding the issue of BDS. There are those who fight for Palestinians’ statehood but deny self-determination for the Jews. This contradiction is based on hypocrisy. Italy has been too slow in adopting this international definition.
Q: You said that the hate for Israel is a dangerous crime. How can we bring the European Union to understand that and fight against it?
A: We should start working on it in the schools, among the youth. I spent nine years at the European Parliament, and I can say that the European institutions—let alone the institutions [of] the U.N.—are no friends of Israel. The European Parliament has today a majority that is not friendly to Israel. So, I believe we shouldn’t focus on these institutions but rather on the new generations. Those who want to erase the State of Israel should know that they will have in us an enemy. Israel is an ally. This should be taught in schools and universities.
Q: Do you regret leaving the government?
A: No, I would have done it again. I am sorry about one thing—that the current government is trying to dismantle our reforms on taxes, pensions and immigration, that were useful for Italy. But we will pass them again.
Q: When you will become prime minister, will Italy recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?
A: Yes. Absolutely.
Q: Should the European Union ban the BDS movement for being an anti-Semitic movement?
Q: Should the European Union join the United States in issuing harsh sanctions on Iran and supporting an Iranian revolt against the Islamic regime?
A: Yes. To do so, we would need a strong and free Europe because nowadays, we are unfortunately hostage of economic interests and leftist prejudices that are anti-U.S. and anti-Israel.