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Berlusconi charms Israel with EU talk

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- Berlusconi and Netanyahu shake hands during a meeting in Italy last year

Berlusconi and Netanyahu shake hands during a meeting in Italy last year

Silvio Berlusconi is seldom shy about making headlines, and he’s also known to turn on the charm when he meets foreign leaders.

So it was hardly surprising the Italian prime minister kicked off a three-day visit to Israel on Monday by declaring his hope that Israel might one day become a member of the European Union.

“My greatest dream, a Netanyahu and Berlusconi shake hands during a meeting in Italy last year

Netanyahu and Berlusconi shake hands during a meeting in Italy last year

s long as I am a mover and shaker in politics, is to welcome Israel as one of the European Union’s member states,” the 73-year-old billionaire announced to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who went on to praise the shared Judeo-Christian roots of Rome and Jerusalem.

While Berlusconi’s comments made headlines, at least in Israel and Italy, it’s not the first time he’s laid out such an ambition – he said almost exactly the same thing during a visit to Croatia in January 2003, when he backed Zagreb’s bid to join the EU and said he hoped Israel, Turkey, Ukraine and Moldova would follow. 

Has Syria come in from the cold?

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assad.jpgThe European-Mediterranean summit in Paris might have produced grand projects ranging from cleaning up the Mediterranean sea to using North Africa’s sunshine to generate power. But that is is not what it will be remembered for.

It will be remembered for the glorious welcome it bestowed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who until yesterday was persona non-grata in the West, an autocrat leading a pariah regime, which many believe orchestrated the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.  

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