Hamas Accountability: Insights from Italian Diplomat Antonio Tajani

RFI: You participated in the Paris conference on humanitarian aid to Gaza during which Emmanuel Macron spoke for the first time of the need for a ceasefire…

Antonio Tajani: The ceasefire can be an objective that can be seized after “breaks” to create humanitarian corridors. But, first, Israel must organize its defense and therefore we cannot block Israel in its reaction. The ceasefire is the second step. The first is the humanitarian pause to help the civilian population. We must also allow Israel to protect itself because there are missile attacks targeting the Israeli civilian population from Gaza. And therefore Israel has the right to defend itself.

Italy has just announced the sending of a hospital ship off the coast of Gaza. Do you think that this ship will be able to play a role knowing that the ship already sent by France, the Tonnerre, has still not been able to accommodate any injured people on board?

This Thursday morning, the Vulcano left the port of Civitavecchia, which is near Rome, and it will arrive there in a few days. We are also ready to build a field hospital near Rafah, in Egypt, or in Gaza itself. But, of course, agreements will have to be made to achieve this. We have also already sent humanitarian aid with military planes to help the civilian population and we are also ready to treat wounded Palestinians. We are currently discussing with the United Arab Emirates the possibility of treating injured young Palestinians in Italy or sending doctors and surgeons, to Abu Dhabi for example, to treat these young people.

Do you think the international community can help the Palestinians in Gaza? Today, we have the impression of a form of helplessness in the face of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

We must never give up, we must be stubborn and try to do what we can do to help the civilian population. Because the civilian population is going through very difficult times because of Hamas. It must be said very clearly, as Emmanuel Macron said this Thursday and as I emphasized during my speech: Hamas is responsible for what is happening today. It was Hamas which organized the attack against Israel and against the Israeli civilian population to block the agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. So he is the one responsible.

We must move forward to save the Palestinian population, send humanitarian aid and treat the wounded. We must also say very clearly that Hamas is a terrorist organization, but that the Palestinians are not Hamas. This is why we must support the Palestinian Authority.

During this conference, you discussed the political solution to this conflict, with “the two-state solution” which is supported by the European Union and a large part of the international community. After the attack of October 7 and what is happening in Gaza, can we still hope for a political solution to this conflict?

Absolutely, because it is the only solution we can grasp. First, we must work for peace. That being said, I put on the table the idea of having a situation similar to that which prevails between Hezbollah and Israel in South Lebanon, with the role of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). There are 1,300 Italian soldiers there trying to separate the two sides. We can do the same thing with the United Nations after the end of the war. Then, after a period of peace, we can try to have a Palestinian state that recognizes Israel.

Europe is of course faced with another conflict, that between Russia and Ukraine. However, Ukraine this week obtained the green light from the European Commission to open accession negotiations. What will be the position of the Italian government at the European Council in December, where the final decision of the European Union will be taken?

We are absolutely in favor of Ukraine’s accession, which of course must respect the rules and community achievements. But we are also in favor of the Balkan countries which are candidates for the European Union such as Albania, Serbia and the others.

Albania also concluded a controversial agreement with Italy on illegal migrants this week, which will allow Rome to open two reception centers on Albanian territory. Several NGOs and the Italian opposition strongly criticized this agreement, with some even speaking of a future “Italian Guantanamo”. Doesn’t this project risk calling into question European asylum law?

No, they don’t know about the agreement which respects European law and which respects all the rules. Talking about “Guantanamo” is propaganda, stupidity. It will be managed by the Italians and even if it will not be on Italian soil, it will not be in Africa or Asia, it will be in Europe, in a candidate country for the European Union. This project will allow us to welcome irregular migrants while waiting to be able to carry out the necessary checks, before bringing them home thanks to agreements made with the countries of origin.

This article is originally published on rfi.fr

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