Paolo Gentiloni will be Italy’s next premier

Italian Foreign Minister Gentiloni has been chosen as Italy’s next prime minister. His relationship with Israel is colder than that of his predecessor.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni was tapped Sunday to form a new government and end a political crisis so the country can turn to pressing problems, including troubled banks, an economy resisting growth and electoral reforms aimed at making the nation more governable.

“I’m aware of the urgency to give Italy a government in the fullness of its powers, to reassure the citizens and to face with utmost commitment and determination international, economic and social priorities,” the 62-year-old Gentiloni said.

If no snags develop, Gentiloni could be sworn in as premier early this week. He declined to make predictions, saying only: “We’re getting down to work.”

Gentiloni would take the place of fellow Democrat Matteo Renzi, who has been acting in a caretaker role as premier since he quit on Dec. 7 after his nearly three-year-old government suffered a stinging defeat in a referendum on reforms he had staked his job on.

A new government faces a mandatory confidence vote in Parliament.

Surmountable Political Instability?

The populist 5-Star Movement and other opposition forces have been clamoring for an early election. But President Sergio Mattarella, in weighing a replacement for Renzi, pointed out that the center-left government still commands a majority in Parliament.

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“The people feel as if they’ve been taken for a ride, and want to vote who will decide their lives,” said a 5-Star lawmaker, Laura Castelli, in a Facebook post that promoted the movement’s “elections immediately” hashtag.

Renzi became Italy’s youngest-ever premier in February 2014 when he was 39. He still leads the Democratic Party, although he is widely expected to face internal party challenges should he bid for a return to the premiership when elections are eventually scheduled.

As foreign minister, Gentiloni lobbied for international support to help end years of violence and fighting in Libya. The north African nation’s lawless coast has turned into a vast launching pad for lucrative people smuggling, which sends hundreds of thousands of migrants out in unseaworthy boats toward Italian shores.

Gentiloni also spearheaded Italy’s demands that the Egyptian government determine and bring to justice those who tortured and killed a young Italian researcher in Cairo this year.

The premier-designate is considered a staunch supporter of the outgoing Renzi.

But Renzi took Gentiloni to task earlier this fall, expressing displeasure that his foreign minister had abstained on a resolution of UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, instead of opposing it. The resolution angered Israel with its wording that put the Western Wall in Jerusalem — Judaism’s holiest site — in quotation marks and described other Jewish sites as “so-called” and which effectively denied Judaism’s connection to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.

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Renzi later apologized to Israel.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff