Israel Apologizes to Italy for Deputy Minister’s Earthquake Comments

Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation, Ayoub Kara of Likud. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation, Ayoub Kara. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Israel has apologized to the Italian government for statements made by Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara earlier in the week. Kara attributed the earthquake in Italy that took place last week to that country’s abstention from the UNESCO resolution that denied a connection between Jews and Har HaBayis.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said that the statement “does not reflect the strength of the relations between Israel and Italy, both nations and their governments alike. The comments were improper and would have been better left unsaid.” The apology was made hours before Italian President Sergio Mattarella was set to arrive in Israel.

Kara, who was visiting Rome last Wednesday, connected the earthquake with Italy’s vote. “I am certain that the quake occurred due to the UNESCO decision that the pope very much disliked, and even publicly expressed that the Holy Land belongs to the Jewish people,” said Kara. The statement was widely disseminated in the Italian media, and denounced by government officials, and Italy’s ambassador to Israel demanded “clarifications” from the government on the matter.

After the UNESCO vote, Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi slammed the organization and said that it was a mistake for his country to fail to vote against it. “I think this is a mistaken, inconceivable resolution. It is not possible to continue with these resolutions at the U.N. and UNESCO that aim to attack Israel. It is shocking and I have ordered that we stop taking this position [of abstention] even if it means diverging from the position taken by the rest of Europe,” he said.

In a phone call, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thanked Renzi for his comments, saying that the Italian prime minister “understands the significance of historic truth and the attempt that has been made to erase a part of the history of Judaism and Christianity in Jerusalem.”