Factious Italian Parliament Speaker Holds Meeting with Rome’s Chief Rabbi

Irene Pivetti, the speaker of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies who has been accused of being anti-Semitic, has met with Rome Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff in an ongoing effort to improve her image.

Pivetti, who met with Toaff on Tuesday, also met recently with Israeli Ambassador Avi Pazner.

A communique issued by Pivetti’s office following her half-hour meeting with Toaff described the get-together as “very cordial.”

“We offered to collaborate on the common problems of the faithful in Italy, and hope that today’s meeting will be the first in a long series of encounters,” Toaff told reporters.

The rabbi said the talks dealt with problems encountered by various religions in Italy.

“It was easy to find common ground,” he said.

Sources in the Jewish community said the controversy over Pivetti’s past statements that were perceived as anti-Semitic did not arise during the meeting.

The 31-year-old Pivetti, a staunchly conservative Roman Catholic, became speaker of the Chamber of Deputies in April and has since faced sharp criticism for attitudes seen as anti-Semitic, anti-feminist and in opposition to interfaith dialogue.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin raised the issue last week when he criticized Italy for including Cabinet ministers from the National Alliance, whose core party is the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement.

The Israeli ambassador to Italy, Avi Pazner, met last week with Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Martino and explained to him the concerns raised in Israel by the inclusion of National Alliance ministers in the Italian government.

Officials of the two countries stressed that the two states maintain warm links despite the neo-fascist presence in the Italian government.

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