Netanyahu hails Italy's Salvini as 'great friend of Israel'

Netanyahu hails Italy's Salvini as 'great friend of Israel'
Italian Interior Minister and Deputy-Premier Matteo Salvini, wears a yarmulke during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hailing Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini as a “great friend of Israel,” despite the Italian Jewish community’s outcry over his far-right policies and anti-migration views.

Salvini met with Netanyahu on Wednesday in Jerusalem before visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, as part of his two-day trip to Israel.

However, the office of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin says he turned down a meeting with Salvini, citing a full schedule and declining further comment.

Salvini’s visit has drawn criticism for his far-right policies and anti-migration views. His remarks have frequently drawn outrage from the Italian Jewish community, whose leaders have expressed concern over the government’s “radicalization.”

Netanyahu’s critics accuse him of giving a pass to authoritarian and far-right leaders out of political considerations.