Massimo d'Alema, who once referred to Israel as a “terror state,” was sworn in last week as Italy’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, along with the rest of Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s new cabinet.
D’Alema, 57, a former prime minister himself, is a communist and member of the Democratic Left party. He is known for his pro-Palestinian stance, and in the past has expressed his opposition to the construction of settlements, the West Bank security fence and IDF activity in the territories.
Following Hamas’ January 2006 victory in the Palestinian elections, d’Alema said that ‘while the organization is in fact extremist, the terror attacks it wages on Israel are part of the Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation.’
A woman who accompanied the new Italian foreign minister during his visit to Jerusalem in 1999 said that upon his arrival she greeted him by saying “welcome to Israel,” to which he responded, “welcome to Palestine.”
'I have always been a friend to Israel'
D’Alema associates said he plans to change Italy’s pro-Israel policy, as "it must be balanced and become more supportive of the Palestinans’ suffering."
An official in Jerusalem told Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday evening that “the honeymoon between Israel and Italy is over; the relations will not remain as intimate and good as before.”
D’Alema, who recently attended an Israel Independence Day cocktail party thrown by ambassador to Italy Ehud Gol, denied that he is pro-Palestinian. “I have always been a friend to Israel,” he told reporters at the event.
Yossi Bar contributed to the report