ITALY's Berlusconi calls for Israel to be ''brought into the European Union''

ITALIAN Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has called for Israel to be ”brought into the European Union,” arguing that the western foundations of the EU should be ”us and the Judaeo-Christian cultures.”

(AP) JERUSALEM – Under Berlusconi’s leadership, Italy has become one of Israel’s strongest allies in Europe. Berlusconi’s efforts to strengthen ties with Israel followed decades of a pro-Arab tilt by previous Italian governments..

Italy says it will act responsibly if new sanctions are imposed on Iran despite the vast interests of Italian companies there. Italy has indicated that halting Iranian nuclear ambitions will take precedence over commercial considerations.

Speaking on arrival in Israel, Berlusconi told Netanyahu that “my greatest desire, as long as I am a protagonist in politics, is to bring Israel into membership of the European Union.” Israel has close trade ties with the EU but is not pressing to join the bloc.

Netanyahu embraced his guest warmly, calling his arrival a “historic visit.” “Not every day do we get the privilege to host one of Israel’s greatest friends, a brave leader who is a great fighter for freedom and an enthusiastic supporter of peace,”Netanyahu said of Berlusconi. Netanyahu said the sides expected to sign a series of agreements during the visit, on subjects including energy, the environment and health. He also spoke of the historic common bond between the two nations.

“I can think of very few nations who have made such a contribution to Western culture as our two nations. In Rome and Jerusalem, the foundations for Western culture were laid,” he said. Berlusconi echoed the same theme, expressing his “pride of the Judeo-Christian culture that formed the base of Western civilization.”

At the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, Berlusconi left a short inscription that read: ”Our souls shout, ‘This cannot be, this isn’t true’. But then, our soul realises and screams, ‘Never, never again.’CBS NEWS