Netanyahu Names ex-Italian Lawmaker as Next Israeli Ambassador to Rome

Fiamma Nirenstein served in Italian parliament from 2008-2013, and is noted for her fiercely pro-Israel views.

An archive photo from October 7, 2010 showing Fiamma Nirenstein, then member of Italian Parliament, taking part in a pro-Israel demonstration in Rome.
AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to appoint former Italian lawmaker Fiamma Nirenstein as Israel’s ambassador to Italy. A senior Israeli official said Netanyahu, also Israel’s foreign minister, recently submitted her candidacy to the civil service appointments committee. If approved, she would begin her assignment next summer.

This would be a relatively exceptional appointment, given that Nirenstein, who holds dual citizenship, was until a few years ago an active parliamentarian in Italy. Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed the details. “Netanyahu was impressed by Nirenstein’s considerable abilities, talents, and connections in the Italian political system, which is why he decided to appoint her to the post,” he said. If the appointment goes through, Nirenstein will have to surrender her Italian citizenship.

From 2008 to 2013, she was an Italian MP from the right-wing party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, to whom she was very close. In the Italian parliament, she served as deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. An Israeli official who knows her described her political positions as similar to those held by the right wing of Likud.

Nirenstein was once identified with the leftist camp in Israel. However, in an interview she gave to Israel Hayom in 2011, she said that after her first visit to Israel in 1967, which was before the Six-Day War, she began to abandon the left and throw her support behind right-wing parties.

Nirenstein is considered one of the strongest pro-Israel voices in Europe, and would often appear on broadcasts in Italy and elsewhere to debate politicians or other personalities who criticized Israel. She was also a member of the Friends of Israel initiative founded a few years ago by several right-wing European politicians, among them former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar.

Before entering politics, Nirenstein was a journalist, working for media outlets identified with the Italian right. During the 1990s, she served as cultural attaché in the Italian Embassy in Israel and afterward as the Israel correspondent for several Italian newspapers. Upon leaving politics in 2013, she returned to work for the right-wing newspaper Il Giornale, which is owned by Berlusconi and where she had worked for several years.

Though she has lived most of her life in Rome, in 2013 she officially made aliyah and now lives in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood. Despite this, she unsuccessfully contended for the chairmanship of the Jewish community of Rome a month ago.

“I’m convinced Fiamma Nirenstein will bring a lot of diplomatic and political experience to the job, and succeed in deepening the relationship between Israel and Italy, our close friend, and will work toward diplomatic, economic, cultural and security cooperation,” Netanyahu said on Monday. “The link between Jerusalem and Rome is over 2,000 years old, and I am pleased to send Fiamma Nirenstein to strengthen these ties.”

Nirenstein said, “I am pleased to accept the assignment given me by the prime minister to deepen the relationship between Israel and Italy. I promised the prime minister I would do the best I can to strengthen the strong ties between the two countries.”

This would be the third time Netanyahu makes a political appointment to a diplomatic post in which the candidate is a citizen of the country in which he will serve. The previous two were the current ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer; and Michael Oren, who was appointed U.S. ambassador in 2009.

This would also be Netanyahu's second political appointment to the diplomatic corps in his capacity as foreign minister in the current government. Last week, he announced the appointment of former Yesha Council of settlements head Dani Dayan as ambassador to Brazil.