Visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday said he dreams of one day seeing Israel join the European Union as a full-fledged and influential member state.
"As long as I am one of the shapers of politics, my greatest dream is to include Israel among the European Union countries," said Berlusconi shortly after arriving together with top Italian ministers for a joint cabinet meeting with their Israeli counterparts.
Berlusconi noted that he only holds joint cabinet meetings with the most important European nations, and said his visit demonstrates that he views Israel as part of Europe.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the Italian delegation warmly, and announced that the Jewish state is lucky to have a friend like Berlusconi in a region traditionally unfriendly to the Jews and Israel.
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman hoped to enlist Berlusconi's help in creating greater European pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program.
During his visit, Berlusconi also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, and said the display of what had happened in his and other European countries made him feel "like someone punched me in the gut."