President Shimon Peres will award Italian President Giorgio Napolitano with the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civilian honor, on Monday.
Napolitano will be granted the prize for “his stance for the protection and defense of the State of Israel for many years, for being a clear voice in the Communist party and in Italy in favor of Israeli democracy and opposed to all forms of terrorism, and its historic impact on the return of the Prisoners of Zion [Jewish prisoners in the Soviet Union] to their land,” a statement from the president’s office read.
Following the award ceremony, Peres is set to meet with President of the Senate Peitro Grasso and Minister of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini to discuss changes in the Middle East and reaffirm Israel-Italy diplomatic ties.
According to the President’s office, the Presidential Medal of Distinction is awarded to individuals or organizations that have made unique and outstanding contributions to bettering the world, Israeli society and the State of Israel’s image around the world. Past recipients include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, and US presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
The Israeli president was in Italy on Pope Francis’s invitation for a peace prayer ceremony with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.