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      Netanyahu Visit Showcases Improved Israeli-Italian Ties

      Even if Berlusconi's grip on power appears to be weakening, he has contributed to improved ties with Israel
      By Aryeh Ben Hayim
      First Publish: 6/14/2011, 1:46 PM / Last Update: 6/14/2011, 2:44 PM

      While Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has recently suffered political setbacks, Israel should be grateful to him and other politicians who have changed the official Italian attitude towards Israel. Israel was reviled in Italy during the 1980s and Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, who eventually fled to Tunis to escape corruption charges, was particularly chummy with PLO head Yasser Arafat, even to the point of comparing him with the sainted intellectual leader of Italian unification, Giuseppe Mazzini.

      Compare this with Berlusconi's statement at the press conference: "We have been and will always be at your side because Israel is the only true democracy in the region. In other countries in the region the Arab people are living in a situation where democracy is absent, while Israel is the only country where Arabs have the same rights as Israeli citizens, which should be an example for the Arab countries." 

      The old Italy had collaborated with terror, allowing Palestinian terrorists to operate from Italy in return for Italian immunity from terror attacks. Current attempts by the Italian extreme left and pro-Palestinian sympathizers (now generally one and the same) to intimidate the authorities and have the "Unexpected Israel" Israeli cultural and economic exhibit moved from Milam's Cathedral Square were rebuffed. What makes this especially noteworthy is that the decision was upheld by the center-left opposition that recently recaptured Milan's City Hall. Currently, even the Italian left cannot take a pro-Arab position.

      Any state visit today is incomplete without its economic aspects and Netanyahu's visit led to a series of cooperation agreements. In the field of agriculture, for example, Israel agriculture minister Orit Noked signed two agreements for scientific cooperation with the Italian Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Saverio Romano.This occurred across the board in areas such as transportation, energy and space research.