Italy minister backs Israeli call to recognize Jerusalem as capital

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he would ask Italy to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the country, obtaining immediate support from Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

Netanyahu, who is facing protests at home against his government’s plan to overhaul the Israeli judiciary, arrives in Italy on Thursday for a three-day visit. He will meet Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Friday.

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“I believe the time has come for Rome to recognize Jerusalem as the ancestral capital of the Jewish people for three thousand years, as the United States did with a gesture of great friendship,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper.

Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital but it is not recognized as such by most countries and its status under international law is disputed pending a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Salvini, who leads the rightist ruling League party, immediately backed Netanyahu’s call. “I firmly say yes to Jerusalem capital of Israel, in the name of peace, history and truth,” he posted on Twitter.

In an interview with Reuters in August last year, before she became prime minister, Meloni was more cautious, saying she had no plans to follow the US decision to shift its embassy to Jerusalem.

“It is a diplomatic matter and should be evaluated together with the Foreign Ministry,” Meloni said.

The Israeli parliament passed a law in 1980 declaring the “complete and united” city of Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. The United Nations regards East Jerusalem as occupied, and the city’s status as disputed until resolved by negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu also said he wanted to boost economic ties with Italy, raising the prospect of supplying Rome with natural gas. Italy is committed to replacing its imports of energy from Russia in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

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