04 February 2010
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has expressed his empathy for Israel and the Palestinians during the final day of a three-day visit to Israel. "Today, the safeguarding of Israel's safety and its right to exist as a Jewish state is an ethical choice and a moral obligation, against the possibility of the return of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and a loss of memory by the West," Berlusconi said during an address to the Knesset in Jerusalem. The Italian leader said that his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial "was like being punched in the stomach."
"Italy is like a big brother to Israel," he told the Israeli parliamentarians. "We are fighting and will continue to fight together with you against every instance of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world," Berlusconi said. "We will also stand with you in Israel's struggle for peace and security, and work to establish democracy in nations throughout the world and defend freedom as inalienable requirements for every human being."
On the controversial Goldstone report he said that it had "tried to incriminate Israel for its justified response to Hamas rockets…We are proud that Italy knew how to act when Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were bombed."
Berlusconi was moved to tears when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu praised the courage the Italian leader’s mother Rosa had shown during World War II, the moment she saw a German policeman trying to arrest a Jewish girl on a train in Milan. "The Italian woman, who was then eight months pregnant, stood between the policeman and the girl. And without a grain of fear, she confronted the German policeman and said to him: 'You can kill me, but look at the faces of the people on the train, I promise you they won't let you get out alive'," Netanyahu said in the Knesset. "With this firm statement, the Italian woman saved the Jewish girl and lit, if only for a moment, a ray of humanistic light and bravery in the great darkness that pervaded all of Europe. That brave woman was called Rosa, and one of her sons is called Silvio Berlusconi, today the prime minister of Italy."
Berlusconi called for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, noting that the two parties, as well as the European Union, the United States and the West's most important allies were in agreement over the need for a negotiated settlement for two states. He also reiterated his wish that Israel should become a member of the European Union.
Later on Wednesday, at a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Silvio Berlusconi said, "Just as it is right to cry for the victims of the Shoah, it is right to show pain for what happened in Gaza."
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