The Foreign Ministry on Saturday condemned Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara’s remark earlier this week that the earthquake that rattled Italy was divine retribution for UNESCO’s vote on the Temple Mount.
On Wednesday, the same day the UN’s culture body voted for a resolution whitewashing any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, Kara, a Likud MK who serves as deputy minister for regional cooperation, said during a visit to Vatican that “I am sure that the earthquake happened because of UNESCO’s decision that the pope really didn’t love; and (he) even publicly expressed that the Holy Land belongs to the Jewish people.”
A pair of strong aftershocks shook central Italy late Wednesday, crumbling churches and buildings, knocking out power and sending panicked residents into the rain-drenched streets just two months after a powerful earthquake killed nearly 300 people. But hours after the temblors hit, there were no reports of serious injuries or signs of people trapped in rubble, said the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Fabrizio Curcio.
Kara’s statement, made days before a state visit by Italian President Sergio Mattarella to Israel, provoked outrage in Italy.
The ministry said in a statement Saturday that Kara’s comments were inappropriate and shouldn’t have been made, and that they are not reflective of the strong ties Israel and Italy share.
The statement further noted that Kara apologized for his comments and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with the Likud MK for clarification.
Pope Francis spoke briefly in St. Peter’s Square with Kara, who thanked him for his “decision that Israel is a promising [sic] from God to the Jewish nation” apparently interpreting the remarks as an affirmation from the pope of the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
Kara thanked the Pope for his support of Israel and told reporters that “it is impossible to ignore the clear affinity and connection between Christianity and Judaism” and that the “UNESCO decision [earlier Wednesday] constitutes an attack upon them.”
AFP contributed to this report.