Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Tuesday that a key to maintaining peace in the Middle East was an independent Palestinian state, something that would require sacrifices by both Israel and Arabs.
Prodi made the remarks during a reception organized by the Israeli embassy in Rome to mark the 59th anniversary of the independence of the Jewish state.
Italy was a firm friend of Israel, Prodi said, adding that "true security in Israel will come only with the birth of an independent Palestinian state which lives alongside an Israel recognized by all its neighbors."
"To obtain true peace Israel will have to make sacrifices along with Arab countries and guarantee the Palestinians an independent state, which has geographic continuity."
Militants belonging to Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government, fired rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, effectively ending a ceasefire declared late last year.
The attack appeared to be retaliation after Israeli soldiers killed nine Palestinians at the weekend.
Prodi did not mention the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel but drew attention to recent diplomatic contact between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in connection with a Saudi peace plan.