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Berlusconi eyes Israeli membership in EU

Italian Prime Minister says Israel should join the European Union, in a u-turn from his earlier remarks criticizing Israel’s settlement policy as an impediment to peace.

“My greatest desire, as long as I am a protagonist in politics, is to bring Israel into membership of the European Union,” said Silvio Berlusconi at the beginning of a three-day visit to Israel on Monday.

Eight Italian ministers accompanying Berlusconi will hold joint cabinet meetings with their Israeli counterparts.

The latest remarks come as the Italian premier criticized Israel over its settlement policy last Sunday, calling it “a mistake.”

“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 had said only a day earlier.

While Israel’s relations with some European nations have soured over the conflict with the Palestinians, its ties with Berlusconi’s government have grown much warmer.

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