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Italy, Israel cement relationship with cooperation agreements

JTA

June 14, 2011 | 10:07 am

Relations between Italy and Israel remain strong following a high-level meeting in Rome where Italy strongly condemned any attempt to “delegitimize and boycott” the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed a senior delegation that meet with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other Italian officials on Monday.

The two sides signed eight bilateral agreements on economic, cultural, technological and other cooperation.

They also issued a joint statement calling for a negotiated, two-state solution in the Middle East based on direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian sides. The Italian and Israeli governments, it said, shared the conviction that there should be the state of Israel “as a Jewish state and homeland of the Jewish people, and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people” that would live “side by side in peace, security and reciprocal recognition.”

At a news conference after the meeting, Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s opposition to a United Nations recognition of Palestinian statehood, saying it would hamper negotiations.

“First, it would violate the agreements between the Palestinians and Israel but it would also harden the Palestinian position because if the U.N. General Assembly adopts the Palestinian positions in advance of negotiations why should they negotiate?” he said.

Meanwhile, “Unexpected Israel,” a 10-day celebration of Israeli culture, technology and tourism, opened in Milan’s central Duomo Square despite threats of protest from pro-Palestinian activists. Running June 13-23, Unexpected Israel includes an Italo-Israel business forum as well as exhibits, concerts, films and other events.

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