Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will ask his Italian counterpart to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital during his three-day visit to Rome this weekend.
“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 published ahead of his departure on Thursday.
The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and moved its embassy to the holy city the following May.
Prior to departing for Rome, Netanyahu also addressed the Iran issue, having met shortly before his flight with visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
“Our conversation focused primarily on our joint efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “If anyone in Tehran thinks that Iran can make unhindered progress toward nuclear weapons, they are mistaken.”
“I discern a change in the approach to Iran in recent months, both in the U.S. and in the countries of Western Europe, and in the West in general. I see a need and an obligation to try and strengthen a more assertive approach with Iran,” he said.
“Of course, this will be at the center of my meeting with the Italian prime minister just as it was at the center of my meeting with [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron. I intend to hold similar talks with principal European leaders in the near future,” Netanyahu added.
Netanyahu also expressed a desire to expand economic relations with Italy, saying that he sees the country as a destination for energy exports.
“And then there is natural gas: We have a lot of it and I would like to discuss how to get it to Italy to support your economic growth,” he told la Repubblica.
Italy committed to replacing energy imports from Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last month, British-Greek hydrocarbon exploration and production company Energean announced that Israel had shipped its first crude oil abroad.
“We are happy and proud that Energean has facilitated Israel joining the club of international oil exporters,” said Energean CEO Mathios Rigas.
The company began extracting hydrocarbons from the Karish gas field off the northern Israeli coast on Oct. 26, a day before Israeli and Lebanese leaders signed a United States-mediated maritime border agreement.
Upon arrival this evening, Netanyahu will meet with members of the Jewish community at the Jewish Museum of Rome.
On Friday, the Israeli premier will hold talks with Italian business leaders, then have a 45-minute meeting with his Italian counterpart Georgia Meloni at the Chigi Palace, her official residence.