JERUSALEM (AFP-EJP)---Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Israeli settlements could be an "obstacle to peace", in an interview with Israeli daily Haaretz published Sunday.
Berlusconi made the remarks ahead of a three-day visit to Israel in which he was to deliver a speech in Israel's parliament, the Knesset.
"Israel's settlement policy could be an obstacle to peace," Berlusconi said.
"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," he said.
"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 praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "courage" for imposing in November a 10-month freeze on new construction in settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Speaking at Sunday morning's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel would wholeheartedly welcome the Italian Prime Ministerwho will be accompanied by six of his ministers.
"I consider the arrival of the Italian delegation very important. I appreciate Berlusconi – Israel does not a better friend in the international community."
He added that the visit represents “a further upgrade of our relations with key governments in Europe.”
"Two weeks ago we held a second meeting with the German government in Berlin, and last week we met with the Polish government and agreed to hold a governments' meeting in Warsaw”.
On the first day of his visit, Berlusconi is to visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Jerusalem, including the Hall of Names.
He will participate in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, visit the Children’s Memorial and sign the Yad Vashem Guest Book.
During his visit, Berlusconi will be accompanied by Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, and seven ministers of the Italian government.
1. No one can possibly understand the situation in Israel without grasping the ideology of Islam. Anyone who thinks the "settlements" -- that is, Jewish villages and cities, on land to which Israel has an overwhelming legal, moral and historic claim, one that did suddenly come into existence with the militiary possession of that territory -- are an "obstacle" to peace simply is ignorant of, or wishes to ignore, Islam.
2. Berlusconi is not, therefore, a true "friend of Israel." And if he, that crook, is the best that Israel can do among what Netanyahu calls "the international community" (instead of avoiding, or mocking, that phrase), then the leaders of Israel should ask themselves what is it they are not conveying, that they do not dare to convey, and without an understanding of which, neither Israel nor its putative "friends" can possibly make the proper case.