Silvio Berlusconi was “a great friend of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday as the world reacted to the death of the 86-year-old Italian political leader.
“I was deeply saddened by the passing of Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and to the people of Italy,” Netanyahu said.
“Silvio was a great friend of Israel and stood by us at all times. Rest in peace, my friend,” the premier added.
The media tycoon served as the European country’s prime minister three times in four governments from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006 and 2008 to 2011. He was also served as the president of the center-right Forza Italia party up until his death in Milan, the city where he was born on Sept. 29, 1936.
Before getting into politics, Berlusconi created a television empire in the 1980s. He is credited with the creation of the first and only Italian commercial television empire, owning and operating a complex network of nationwide channels producing similar content.
He also bought the AC Milan soccer club in 1986. After over three decades of ownership, he then sold the club to a Chinese consortium in 2017.
Berlusconi was known for his strong support of Israel and close relations with Netanyahu while they simultaneously led their respective countries over the years. The Italian was quoted as saying in 2010 that “my greatest desire, as long as I am a protagonist in politics, is to bring Israel into membership of the European Union.”
While he was in office in 2012, Italy and Israel inked a defense deal worth $1 billion for Italy’s M-346 jet trainer and the joint development of a reconnaissance satellite.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate
Edited by Jessi Rexroad Shull and Sterling Creighton Beard