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'Andreotti, a friend of Israel and a great politician'

Seven-time premier helped Jews leave USSR says Shamir aide

06 May, 18:45
'Andreotti, a friend of Israel and a great politician' (see related) (ANSA) - Tel Aviv, May 6 - The late seven-time Italian premier Giulio Andreotti may have been pro-Arab, but he always had an eye towards Israel, a top aide to former premier Yitzhak Shamir told ANSA on Monday.

"He was of great help to us in getting Soviet Jews out of the USSR," said Avi Pazner, who served as Israeli ambassador to Italy in the early 1990s. "He always did things with a lot of skill and discretion. That was his style".

Andreotti in 1991 suggested holding the next round of Middle East peace talks in Rome "in order to give the negotiations some breathing room, but the Americans were against it," Pazner recalled.

The first Italian premier ever to participate in Israeli Independence Day celebrations at the Rome embassy, Andreotti was interested in Hebrew culture and in Europe's Judeo-Christian roots. He and Shamir were known to hold long talks about Italy's Middle Eastern policy, Pazner went on.

"Obviously their views diverged significantly, but there was always an admiration for the man's character, for his preparation and his capacity for dialogue. He was one of Italy's great politicians," said Pazner, adding that Andreotti could not have committed the many crimes he was indicted for.

The late Christian Democratic leader's judicial troubles were his greatest struggle later in life, Pazner added.

Andreotti was given a 24-year jail term in 2002 for conspiracy to murder a muckraking journalist, Mino Pecorelli, in 1979. The State's highest appeals court in October 2003 overturned the verdict.

"I threw a little party before leaving Rome, and he was one of the guests. He told me, 'I pray God grants me to live long enough to see my innocence upheld'," Pazner recalled.

"I've never believed any of that stuff. That was not Andreotti," he concluded.