Italian PM: Palestinians must ‘recognize reality’ of Jewish state

Speaking to Knesset, Matteo Renzi says he plans to tell Ramallah that both Palestinians and Jews deserve a nation-state; voices strong opposition to boycott of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (right) at the Knesset on July 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (right) at the Knesset on July 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Wednesday told the Knesset he plans to call on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

Renzi addressed the Israeli parliament during his state visit to Israel, ahead of a stop in Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian leaders. He told Israeli lawmakers that he intends to say to the Palestinians that “to recognize Israel is to recognize reality.”

Renzi was on a tour of the Holy Land, meeting with Israeli leaders Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, scheduled for Thursday.

“Peace will only be possible with two states for two peoples,” Renzi told the Knesset, “and only if security is guaranteed for both peoples, along with the Palestinians’ right to self-definition and the right of the nation-state of the Jewish people to security.

“Peace means that the Palestinians will have their nation-state and the Jews will have their nation-state,” Renzi said. “Recognizing Israel means recognizing reality… The existence of the State of Israel is not a gesture of the international community after the Holocaust, but a fact that predates any international agreement by hundreds of years… Israel exists despite the Holocaust not by virtue of the Holocaust.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that the Palestinian leadership recognize Israel as a Jewish state under any future peace agreement. Such a clause is understood to preclude the return to Israel of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, a core demand of Palestinian negotiators over the years.

Renzi also said that movements calling for the boycott of Israeli products “are betraying their own future.”

Italy “will always be at the forefront of European and international forums against all forms of sterile and stupid boycotts,” he said from the Knesset rostrum.

At the same time, the prime minister said he supports the deal reached between Iranian and Western diplomats about Tehran’s nuclear program. “It’s possible to disagree on the compromise with Iran, but there will never be any compromise regarding Israel’s future,”Renzi said. “Israel’s security is our security too.”

He made similar comments earlier in the day at a press conference with Netanyahu following a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum.

“Israel’s security is Europe’s own security,” Renzi said. “We think it is possible to make compromises regarding Iran’s future, but impossible to make compromises on Israel’s security.”

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