Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi hinted in an interview published Sunday that the Gaza pullout ("Disengagement") was a mistake, noting that it ended in "burned synagogues" and missiles being fired into Israel.
Berlusconi arrives in Israel Monday for a three-day visit. He will be accompanied by eight Italian cabinet ministers, who will for the first time participate in a joint cabinet meeting with the Israeli cabinet.
The meeting will also highlight bilateral cooperation in the fields of science, technology and culture. A special conference will be held bringing together leaders of Italian business, industry and science and their Israeli counterparts. Three laboratories that were funded by the Italians will be dedicated in the course of the visit.
Speaking to Haaretz regarding the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Berlusconi criticized Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria: "Israel’s settlement policy could be an obstacle to peace. I would like to say to the people and government of Israel, as a friend, with my hand on my heart, that persisting with this policy is a mistake. I welcomed Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu’s courage in his announcement of a 10-month [Jewish residential settlement construction] freeze. It will never be possible to convince the Palestinians of Israel’s good intentions while Israel continues to build in territories that are to be returned as part of a peace agreement."
Berlusconi added, however, that "at the same time, what happened in Gaza should prompt some thought. It is not [acceptable for Israel] to evacuate communities [and then have to] face burned synagogues, acts of destruction, and inter-Palestinian violence and missiles being shot into Israeli territory."
Israel’s Friend Calls for Return of Golan
The Italian prime minister and business tycoon called on Syria and Israel to "act together for the sake of peace, in the framework of which the Golan Heights will be returned and at the same time diplomatic and friendly relations will be established between the two countries, and Damascus for its part will stop supporting organizations that do not recognize Israel’s existence."