Friday, 11 April 2008

Italian elections: a Jewish vote ?, by Daniel Mosseri

From EJP:

"What do the 30,000 Italian Jews expect from the early general elections?

48 million Italians will vote next Sunday and Monday to renew the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate after the outgoing Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s centre-left coalition government lost a confidence vote in January.

Despite its modest size, the Italian Jewish community is well-integrated in society and somewhat influential, since it includes a number of prominent journalists, intellectuals and, last but not least, a life Senator - Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology and Medicine Prof. Rita Levi Montalcini (99) - whose uninterrupted support to the outgoing cabinet of Prime Minister Romano Prodi proved to be essential during the last legislature. …

Traditionally anti-Fascist, secular and politically neo-liberal, in the last 30 years Italian Jews have been dealing with the anti-Israeli attitude of the Communist and Catholic left.

At the same time, they started appreciating former centre-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's political revolution. The 71-year-old media tycoon openly embraced Israel's issues, continuously sympathized with Jerusalem and helped turn its ally, the post-Fascist Alleanza Nazionale party of Gianfranco Fini, into a pro-Israeli political organization.

This does not mean, however, that most Italian Jews will be voting for Berlusconi's 'People's Freedom Party' (PDL), observers say.

When his cabinet lost its majority in the Senate, Romano Prodi, a former president of the European Commission, announced his withdrawal from active politics and Rome's Mayor Walter Veltroni took the centre-left political spectrum.

Veltroni made his own political revolution by "sacking" two communist parties and the Greens. At the same time, he "cleaned" his Democratic Party (PD) from the most anti-Israeli fringes, challenging his rival Silvio Berlusconi on the same centrist ground.

Although outgoing Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, a politician who more than once urged Israel to talk to Hamas and Hezbollah representatives, is still a prominent member of the PD, Veltroni declared earlier this week to Israeli newspaper Maariv that "Israel should not dialogue with those who wish its destruction" and that "the international community underestimated Iran's actual threats to Israel".

Berlusconi's sympathy for Israel is probably more deep-rooted."

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