Italy tries to mend relations with Jewish community, PLO

The recent terrorist attack on a Rome synagogue has done more than stun Italy.

Unwittingly, it has also provided an opportunity for patching up differences between Italy's 36,000 Jews and the government over Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat's visit last month.

Immediately following the Oct. 9 attack that left a two-year-old child dead and 29 other Italian Jews wounded, there was an emotional and angry reaction. Furious crowds blamed Italian President Sandro Pertini for the attack because he had received Arafat.

If it was a PLO-ordained hit, the Jews reasoned, then Pertini was at fault for having implicitly recognized the terrorists' leader, Yasser Arafat. (Since the Polish and Soviet-made weapons used in the attack are of the same type used in anti-Jewish attacks in Paris and Vienna earlier, police now suspect the Rome attack was executed by an anti-Arafat extremist Palestinian group headed by Abu Nidal.)

However, observers and analysts do not feel the incident will deter Italy from its Mideast policy, which is edging closer toward the PLO. But Italy has gradually shifted its position on PLO recognition.

Previously, it maintained the PLO must first recognize the right of Israel to exist, but lately, Italy has begun demanding as much bending from Israel as it had earlier demanded from the PLO.

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