berlusconi GREAT 58.
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hinted on Tuesday that Israel will
hold Hamas responsible for the barrels of explosives that washed ashore
near Ashdod and Ashkelon a day earlier.
“We view very seriously the Hamas activities that came from Gaza,
actions which just by coincidence did not extract a price on human
life,” Netanyahu said during a press conference in Jerusalem with
visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. “We view this very
gravely and will respond in time.”
Netanyahu’s comments came in answer to a question about the possibility of renewed negotiations with Damascus.
“We want peace with all our neighbors, including Syria,” he said. “We
have expressed more than once our interest in negotiations with Syria,
without preconditions, and I discussed this with Prime Minister
Berlusconi. Unfortunately, Syria and, obviously Iran, continue to
supply arms to Hizbullah and Hamas.”
Berlusconi said he had a good personal relationship with Syrian
President Bashar Assad, and that he would bring up the idea of renewing
negotiations in talks he will have with Assad in the near future.
Berlusconi also said that he would shortly be meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
“I was a good friend Saad Hariri’s father,” he said. “I imagine I will
have a good relationship with him as well, and I will relay your
concerns about arms smuggling to him. We are not only talking about
arms, but also missiles and rockets. We saw what happened a year ago in
Gaza, and we don’t want Gaza to repeat itself in Lebanon.”
Berlusconi also said that he would do what he could to repair Israel’s
ties with Turkey and its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with whom
he also enjoys a good relationship.
Regarding Turkey, Netanyahu said that the relationship was important,
and that it recently had some “valleys, but not because of us.”
Both sides wanted to stabilize the relationship, because there were benefits for both sides, he said.
The bulk of the talks between Netanyahu and Berlusconi concerned Iran, according to Israeli officials.
Berlusconi, asked at the press conference about his country’s continued
trade with Teheran, said there has been a reduction in trade since
2007, by about one-third. He said that the director-general of a major
Italian gas company was coming to speak to Netanyahu about trade with
“Iran is interested in getting nuclear arms,” Berlusconi said. “This is
something we must pay a great deal of attention to. There can not be
any apathy on this matter.”
Berlusconi said he saw it as his responsibility to Israel and the world to warn about the dangers of a nuclear Iran.
Earlier in the day, at a meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman, Berlusconi was asked to use his good relations with Russia
to encourage it to support sanctions against Iran, and to refrain from
selling arms to Teheran.
Regarding talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu reiterated his desire
to begin talks immediately, and said that “if there is a will there is
He said Israel has shown that it had the will, and that now the
Palestinians must do the same. Berlusconi repeated a previous offer he
made to host Israeli-Palestinian talks in Italy.
Berlusconi defended Netanyahu when the later was asked about reports
that his wife had intervened to quell the appointment of Alon Pinkas as
Israel’s next ambassador to the UN. Berlusconi – perhaps drawing on the
experience he has had recently with the Italian press and various sex
scandals he has been linked to – said that this was just gossip, and
that when journalists were not poisoning the wells, they were inventing
Later in the press conference, it was Netanyahu who stood up for
Berlusconi, who was asked a question about his wife, who last year
announced she was divorcing him because of an alleged fondness for
young women. “Let’s swap newspapers,” Netanyahu said.
The press conference with the two leaders followed a joint cabinet
meeting between the seven cabinet ministers whom Berlusconi brought
with him and their Israeli counterparts. The Italian prime minister is
scheduled to address the Knesset on Wednesday, before holding talks in
Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.