Over the next several days, we will sign a number of agreements in the fields of energy, the environment, economic cooperation, and health.

 PM Netanyahu welcomes Italian PM Berlusconi to Israel


(Photo: Reuters)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: It is a great pleasure to welcome you and your ministerial delegation to Jerusalem, together with the Israeli ministers, members of Knesset and other distinguished guests, who represent the State of Israel’s diversity. It is not every day that we have the privilege of hosting one of Israel’s greatest friends, a courageous leader who is a great champion of freedom and a great supporter of peace.

We are deeply honored by your historic visit. Over the next several days, we will work to strengthen and expand the ties between Italy and Israel. We will sign a number of agreements in the fields of energy, the environment, economic cooperation, health and more. The deep friendship between our two peoples and our two countries is very important to us, and has great importance to our future.

One hundred years ago, when the state visionary, Theodore Herzl – the man who established the Zionist movement that led to the State of Israel – was asked about the prospects for a future Jewish state in such a dangerous region, he said that the fate of the Jewish state would ultimately be linked to the fate of the West. Well, I can think of few peoples who have contributed more to Western civilization than our two peoples. In both Rome and in Jerusalem, the foundations of Western culture were laid.

That is why it is vital that Italy and Israel stand side by side, proud of our heritage, committed to our values, and determined to defend our future and our culture.

Mr. Prime Minister,

On behalf of all the people of Israel, I welcome you to Israel. Welcome to Jerusalem.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. It is with great excitement that I return here after just a few years. My visit is a testament to the deep friendship and love I have, my government has, and the Italian people have for Israel and its people.

Today’s event is one we can mark as important in the relations between our countries, because I am here with eight of the most important ministers in my government for this bilateral meeting. To date, Italy has only had this kind of relationship with five of the most important European countries. This shows that we consider Israel one of the European countries, and you, Benjamin, you know – because I told you years ago and reiterated in our meeting in Cernobbio near Lake Cuomo – that as long as I am one of the shapers of politics, my greatest dream is to include Israel among the European Union countries.

This meeting is the first of a series of meetings that will take place throughout the year. The next meeting will, of course, be held in Italy. Together, we will coordinate the Italian visit so that you will be able to spend a few moments enjoying Italy’s beauty and culture. I think this is also important for the eventual outcome of these meetings.

Israel is at the forefront with regard to investments in technological innovations. We have already worked together on several projects, but I would like even more significant activity. We would like this meeting to birth a mutual commitment to work together towards the future, as I know that this is Israel’s main concern.

When I follow your politics – and I do so quite closely – I see that your terrible past is always paramount in your considerations, and we must all ensure that the world’s insensitivity not repeat itself, as Nobel Prize winner, Eli Wiesel, said on January 27 to the Italian Parliament. We would like to look to the future together and ensure that that future is one of well-being, prosperity and, first and foremost, peace for our peoples. And to your people, who even today sees its existence questioned by those against whom we, the international community, stand opposed – we will act to ensure that this never happens.

That is why I am here today with my government – in order to show our love, our closeness, our desire to collaborate, to show our recognition of the fact that our two countries and our two peoples share a close bond. We are here to show our recognition and our pride in the fact that we are part of a Judeo-Christian culture that is the basis for European culture.

I thank you for your warm welcome, and I am certain that the next few days will not only be enjoyable ones, but will no doubt be fruitful for both our peoples.