Italian Far-right Party Leader Matteo Salvini Scheduled to Visit Israel in December

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FILE PHOTO: Salvini poses with two members of the Central Security Operations Service in Rome, Italy October 10, 2018
Salvini poses with two members of the Central Security Operations Service in Rome, Italy October 10, 2018.Credit: \ Remo Casilli/ REUTERS

Italian Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is scheduled to visit Israel in two weeks, on December 11-12. Salvini, who leads the far-right League party, is known for his fierce opposition to immigration and accepting asylum requests.

In June, he refused to let the search-and-rescue vessel Aquarius dock in Italy after it had pulled refugees near the shores of Libya.

At the time, the ship was carrying 629 migrants, including 134 unaccompanied minors, seven pregnant women and several people in critical condition as result of hypothermia.

The ship was eventually allowed to dock in Spain and was received by the Spanish government.

Salvini also stirred unrest when he called for a registry of all the nomadic Roma people living in Italy.

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The League used to be a haven chiefly for separatists from the northern regions of the country, but Salvini has managed to solidify it on the national stage due to his verbal tirades on African migrants at a time when immigration has become a contentious talking point.

The minister is considered one of the standard-bearers in the European Union against the formation of a moderate immigration policy, along with Hungary, Poland and Austria. He recently rejected the incentives proffered by the European Commission for every asylum seeker assimilated in the continent.

In an interview to the Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom, fellow League member and Deputy Foreign Minister Guglielmo Picchi said Italy is considering, as the Czech Republic recently did, to open a cultural center in Jerusalem.

Picchi said that there has been a drastic change of late in Europe regarding perception of Israel, and that the upcoming election for the European parliament in May 2019, "could also impact the European Commission's approach toward Israel should the new right-wing parties gain in strength."

In recents years, the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grown closer to leaders associated with far-right views and parties such as Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, the Phillippines and Brazil.

In an interview with CNN last week, Netanyahu said he does not believe these leaders cultivate or promote anti-Semitism.

On Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin told CNN that combating anti-Semitism by forming coalitions with neofascist movements is impossible.

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