Italian Jews Eye Political Crisis in Wake of Berlusconi’s Resignation

While welcoming the recent demise of Italy’s first postwar government to include neo-fascists, Italian Jews are closely monitoring the country’s ongoing political crisis.

The government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who resigned Dec. 22 rather than face defeat in a no-confidence vote, was a coalition between his own Forza Italia party, the federalist Northern League and the neo-fascist-led National Alliance.

“The disappearance of the neo-fascists from government is heartwarming for Jews,” said political scientist Franco Pavoncello, vice president of Rome’s Jewish community.

But he cautioned that the neo-fascists would bear watching even if they remain out of power. He emphasized that any possible scenario marginalizing the neo- fascists after they got a taste of power could prove dangerous.

“If they are pushed back into a ghetto,” he said, “they could get the fantasy of being violent.”

A local controversy in Milan over posters bearing a big portrait of dictator Benito Mussolini has underscored the nationwide political tensions that followed in the wake of Berlusconi’s resignation.

About 1,000 posters bearing a large portrait of Mussolini giving a speech went up in Milan last week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Italian Social Republic, Mussolini’s fascist puppet state set up 1944 in northern Italy after the Allies took over the southern part of Italy.

The placing of the posters by an organization of fascist veterans who fought for the Italian Social Republic was approved by local city officials, but sparked protest from opposition parties.

Meanwhile, Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro has been engaged in consultations on whether to choose a new prime minister of dissolve parliament and call for early elections.

Gianfranco Fini, leader of the neo-fascist National Alliance, remains a strong ally of Berlusconi and support him in his call for early elections.

Berlusconi and his allies are confident that a new vote would strengthen their position.

Should Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party remain the core party of any future government, Fini and the National Alliance would almost surely return to a position of power.

Public opinion polls have shown Fini to be one of the most popular political figures in the country.

But a split has already developed between Fini, who wants to turn the National Alliance into a more mainstream conservative/right party, and hardline members of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI), the core party of the National Alliance founded after World War II by Mussolini’s political heirs.

The MSI is supposed to be dissolved at a congress of the National Alliance later this month, but some hardliners have indicated they may break from the Fini line and maintain a traditional neo-fascist party of their own.

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