Italy raising Palestinians’ status to ambassador

Italy plans to upgrade the level of the Palestinian representative in Rome to ambassador.

President Giorgio Napolitano made the announcement Monday during a joint news conference in Bethlehem with Palestinian Authority President Mahnoud Abbas.

The upgrade from delegation to full diplomatic status follows similar decisions announced in recent months by Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and other countries.

Napolitano on Tuesday concluded a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authiority. During his visit he met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and other senior officials.

During a ceremony at Tel Aviv University, he formally accepted a $1 million Dan David Prize, which he was awarded in 2010 for his political activism, particularly in reorienting the Italian Community Party toward the mainstream European model of social democracy.

The announcement of plans to upgrade the Palestinian representative drew words of caution from some Italian Jewish leaders.

Israeli Knesset member Fiamma Nirenstein expressed appreciation for Napolitano’s visit, during which he reiterated “the feelings of deep friendship between the Italian and Israeli people,” but she said the recent reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah made instituting a Palestinian ambassador to Rome “problematic.”