by Luciano Bertozzi

Stop the fighting and stop selling arms to Israel. This is what Amnesty International, the Peace and Disarmament Network and other associations are asking Italy to do. In order not to be complicit with those who bomb Palestinian civilians who are not Hamas, military aid must be banned. This would implement Article 11 of the Constitution, but also Law 185 of 1990, which prohibits exports to belligerent Countries. Italy, on the other hand, abstained from the vote on the ceasefire in Palestine called for by the UN General Assembly, unconditionally supporting Tel Aviv’s revenge. And while Hamas’ atrocities are inexcusable, the continued repression of the Palestinian people should not be forgotten.

The UN General Assembly has adopted numerous resolutions condemning Israel for its continued occupation of the territories, and has also “called upon all States to cease all military and economic aid as long as Israel continues to occupy Arab territories and denies the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people” (Resolution No. 31/61, 9.12.1976 and subsequent). For two decades, Italian Governments followed a policy of equidistance from the Countries of the Middle East. While maintaining good relations with Israel, it pursued a strict policy on arms supplies to Tel Aviv, which were irrelevant until the early 2000s.

In 2003, the right-wing Berlusconi Government signed a military cooperation agreement with Israel, which was ratified by Law No. 95 of 2005. The agreement is shrouded in secrecy, with not even parliament aware of the activities carried out under it. The agreement also provides for the fight against terrorism. At the time, Senator Malabarba (Communist Party) pointed out in the debate on the ratification of the agreement that there was “… another central clause in the new agreement (which) concerned an unspecified ‘cooperation in the fight against terrorism’. Since Israel considers any form of Palestinian and Lebanese resistance to be ‘terrorism’, by approving the agreement our Country risks going to war with Arab movements seeking to liberate their Countries from occupation.” Specifically, the agreement, which is still in force, provides for the exchange of defence information, joint exercises, the invitation of observers, the stopover of naval units and aircraft, and the promotion of respective industries for research, development and production in the military sector.

In 2012, on the basis of the above agreement, the Monti Government signed a contract for the sale of 30 M-346 training aircraft, a deal worth billions of dollars. The planes can also be equipped with weapons and bombs. The first aircrafts were delivered in 2014. In return, the Italian Air Force bought two Gulfstream 550 spy planes (total cost around $800 million) and the OPTSAT-3000 satellite system ($245 million). Since then there have been other forms of cooperation, from underwater drones to armoured combat vehicles, and exercises between the two air forces have increased. The Israelis have used Decimomannu in Sardinia, while the Italians have participated in manoeuvres in Israel. The Italian Air Force, according to the blog of Tuscan Councillor Antonio Mazzeo, trains Tel Aviv pilots in Pisa, and periodically Italians go to the Palmachin base to train in piloting remotely piloted aircraft. In 2019, the defence ministries of the two Countries signed an agreement for the purchase of seven AW119Kx advanced training helicopters for the Israeli Air Force, worth $350 million, in exchange for Italy’s purchase of an equivalent value of Israeli military technology: in September 2020, the agreement was expanded to include five more AW119Kx helicopters in exchange for Italy’s purchase of more Israeli anti-tank missiles. Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gant commented that the agreement “reflects the important and close cooperation with the Italian Ministry of Defence that has existed for years.”

Even the then Italian Minister of Defence, Lorenzo Guerini, during a visit to Israel at the end of 2020, expressed the idea of strengthening cooperation in the field of defence. In January 2023, the new Defence Minister, Guido Crosetto, met with the Israeli Ambassador in Rome, Alon Bar. The meeting revealed a willingness to intensify cooperation between the two Countries. However, as the massacres of 7 October show, security does not come from weapons, but from a political solution to the Palestinian problem.

On the cover photo, a photo released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv (October 21, 2023)