Silvio Berlusconi making efforts to reestablish his reputation after the holocaust joke fiasco? The Italian prime minister sent a message to a pro-Israel rally in Rome on Thursday, in which he announced that he feels "Israeli".
Berlusconi wrote of his visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp: "The visit, like the barbarism and horrors of the holocaust, created within me an inerasable feeling of solidarity – because I am Israeli".
Berlusconi stressed his commitment to Israel's security and its right to exist as a Jewish state, condemned anti-Semitism and holocaust denial and clarified that threats to attack and destroy Israel- like those recently voiced by Iran's President Ahmedinijad, were "intolerable". Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom also took part in the rally.
Both the Vatican and Italy's Jewish community condemned Berlusconi this week for telling two holocaust related jokes.
Yet, it would seem that Berlusconi is trying to smooth out the situation. Commenting on the lack of progress in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, he stressed that he supports the two state solution.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Partini also attended the rally and called on Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to extend the settlement construction freeze and pleaded with Israel and the Arab League, to make efforts to continue direct negotiations.
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