(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this evening (Wednesday), 17 August 2005, spoke with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who phoned in order to express his appreciation for the Prime Minister and the Government of Israel over the implementation of the Disengagement Plan.

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi said that he admires Prime Minister Sharon and fully appreciates the courageous step he has taken; he added that he, the Italian government, the entire Italian political establishment and the Italian people stand behind Israel and its residents. The Italian Prime Minister said that leadership is tested during such times and added that Prime Minister Sharon has proven that he is a brave leader.

Prime Minister Sharon thanked his Italian counterpart for his support and friendship for Israel and emphasized the great importance he ascribes to a quiet implementation of the disengagement.  He stressed that the killing of the Palestinians today in Shilo by an Israeli man, an act designed to stop the disengagement, was very grave. He said that the suspect was in custody and would be punished as strongly as possible.

The two men agreed to meet in the near future.