Italy discreetly asks Israel to reconsider choice of ambassador-elect

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi discreetly sent a message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month suggesting he re-consider his appointment of former Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein as Israeli ambassador to Rome.

Nirenstein, 71, is a former journalist and Italian MP, who represented the right-wing party of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and served as deputy head of the foreign affairs committee.

Renzi’s office sent a message via a senior Netanyahu adviser proposing he rethink the choice as they realized that conflicts of interest could arise with Nirenstein’s appointment as ambassador, said an anonymous Israeli source close to the matter.

Italy’s foreign and defense ministries have both voiced opposition to the appointment on the grounds that Nirenstein had previously represented Italian voters, would continue to receive a government salary as a former MP even after becoming ambassador, and was privy to Italian state secrets, among other objections.

“What they are saying is that if Netanyahu is willing to consider the appointment of someone else to the post, he is invited to make contact and the Italian government would be happy to discuss it,” the source said.


The choice was not well received by Italy’s Jewish community, either.

Ruth Dureghello, president of the Italian Jewish community, asked Israeli president Reuven Rivlin to block the appointment during his visit to Rome in September, saying that it could be considered as dual-loyalty against Italy’s Jews, given a unsuccessful bid by Nirenstein to serve as president of the community in the past.

A senior official in Netanyahu’s office did not deny details of the matter, but the Prime Minister has yet to show any signs of backtracking on his selection.

The source said that the Italians do not intend to spark a crisis on the matter, and would ultimately accept the appointment if insisted by Netanyahu.