On 6 December 2017, the United States (US) President, Mr. Donald Trump, put into effect his presidential campaign promise to effectively recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thereby indicating a future move there for the US embassy from Tel Aviv. Such a decision has been interpreted by many as marking a turning point in the US approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Indeed, even though the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act adopted by the US Senate and House of Representatives committed the Federal Government to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, since its enactment every US President has regularly availed himself of the possibility to invoke a six-month waiver of the application of the law. President Trump himself signed such a waiver twice, before (June 2017) as well as after (December 2017) his own declaration. Nonetheless, his announcement sparked controversy and many countries voiced their dissent. Italy is among those States and its stance will be discussed below. However, in order better to understand the dissent it expressed along with a number of other countries, it is useful to provide a factual and legal context, starting with Mr. Trump’s actual words.
In his speech, Mr. Trump motivated his decision as follows:
Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. […] But today we finally acknowledge the obvious. That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 699th MEETING, 26 OCTOBER 2016.
On 26 October 2016, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, answered three parliamentary questions regarding the abstention of Italy on Decision 200 EX/25 on Occupied Palestine approved by the UNESCO Executive Board on 13 October 2016. The decision was adopted with 24 votes in favour, 6 against, and 26 abstentions. The text of the decision regrets ‘the Israeli refusal to implement previous UNESCO decisions concerning Jerusalem’ and deplores ‘the failure of Israel, the occupying Power, to cease the persistent excavations and works in East Jerusalem particularly in and around the Old City’. In section 25.1.A, the decision makes reference to several issues related to the ‘Al Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif’ condemning, inter alia, ‘escalating Israeli aggressions […] against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their holy site’, as well as deploring ‘the continuous storming’ of the mosque ‘by Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces’. In doing so, the resolution does not make reference to the Jewish ‘Temple Mount’. Mr Gentiloni started by illustrating the Italian position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more generally:
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, 21st SPECIAL SESSION, HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, INCLUDING EAST JERUSALEM, 23 JULY 2014.
On 23 July 2014, the Permanent Representative of Italy at the Human Rights Council, Amb. Maurizio Enrico Serra, expressed the position of the EU with respect to the Human Rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The statement took place in the context of a debate on Israel’s military operation ‘Protective Edge’, which has started on 7 July 2014 in the Gaza Strip, and on the escalation of rocket fire against Israel. At the outset, Amb. Serra specified that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland, Serbia, Albania and Liechtenstein aligned themselves with his statement.