Israel: Netanyahu delays visit to Rome chased by protests

The flight was delayed to allow for a meeting between Netanyahu and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was forced to change his travel plans due to ongoing protests in Israel against the government's judicial reform

The flight of the Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, for Rome it was delayed by one hour to 14:00 (13:00 in Italy). This was reported in a note from the prime minister's office, specifying that the flight was postponed to allow for the meeting between Netanyahu and the US defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, forced to change his travel plans (his arrival was expected last night) due to ongoing protests in Israel against the government's justice reform. Indeed, instead of meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem or at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Austin decided to hold the institutional meetings at the headquarters of Israel Aerospace Industries, adjacent to Ben Gurion airport. Since this morning, some demonstrators have also blocked the streets around the international airport of Tel Aviv, a circumstance which, however, would be irrelevant for the departure of Netanyahu who usually arrives at the airport by helicopter. Meanwhile, the translator Olga Dalia Padoa, who was supposed to interpret Netanyahu in his speech scheduled for today at the synagogue in Rome, refused the assignment in protest against the "repression of freedom" in Israel, as reported by the same translator on Facebook.

Strengthening diplomatic and economic bilateral relations will be the main objective of the three-day visit to Rome by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expected this afternoon, March 9, in Italy, where he will meet Prime Minister Giorgia tomorrow Meloni, and the Minister of Enterprise and Made in Italy, Adolfo Urso. Defense and energy could be the other topics at the center of the talks. As far as energy is concerned, the meetings could discuss both existing collaborations and Europe's attempt to diversify its sources of supply and the hypotheses, in the medium term, to make use of Israeli natural gas - through the liquefaction plants in Egypt or through the Eastmed pipeline project – to partially supply demand. The war in Ukraine and the repercussions on global food security will be among the other topics addressed in the talks, in addition to that of anti-Semitism. In this regard, in January 2020 the Italian Council of Ministers officially adopted the definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Netanyahu's visit to Rome will be followed by the trip to Israel and Ramallah by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Antonio Tajani, starting from Sunday 12 March.

Tomorrow, Friday 10 March, Netanyahu will meet the Minister of Enterprise and Made in Italy Urso, at Palazzo Piacentini on the occasion of the Economic Forum for companies. Afterwards, Prime Minister Meloni will receive the Israeli chief executive for an official lunch at Palazzo Chigi, where statements to the press are expected at the end. After his arrival in Rome, expected today, March 9, Netanyahu will meet privately in the evening with the president of the Jewish Community of Rome, Ruth Dureghello, the president of UCEI, Noemi Di Segni, and the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, inside the Spanish Temple in Rome. The visit to Rome by the prime minister of Israel and his wife Sara comes as part of the population in the Jewish state protests against the controversial justice reform. In the wake of the protests underway in Israel, in conjunction with Netanyahu's stay in Rome, a demonstration in favor of democracy is scheduled for tomorrow in Piazza Santi Apostoli, organized by the independent group "Free Israeli citizens".

Bilateral relations between Israel and Italy date back 70 years and have since experienced constant growth, both in the political, economic and cultural spheres. The consistency of bilateral relations is manifested in a growing presence of Italian companies in Israel, important cultural initiatives, a growth in tourist flows, a growing commercial exchange and frequent visits at a political and institutional level. Italy and Israel also boast solid scientific and technological cooperation. These exceptional and profound relations are based on the traditional relationships between the academic and scientific communities of the two countries and are promoted and supported by the two governments with a series of programs and initiatives, defined on the basis of the bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of research and industrial, scientific and technological development of 2000, which make it possible to be highly visible and effective in promoting the Italian scientific and industrial system, particularly in the hi-tech sectors which are extremely dynamic in Israel thanks to an ecosystem of innovation which is among the most advanced and funded in the world.

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