Berlusconi's Israel Trip Still on Track, Despite Attack

Berlusconi: Speech to Israeli parliament to be one of the most important speeches in my life.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will be coming to Israel and the Knesset on a state visit in about one month, despite an attack a few weeks ago that put him in the hospital with facial injuries. Not only did Berlusconi insist on going through with his trip to Israel, he will be bringing with him eight sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, to be put on display in the Knesset.

It is not known which sketches will be coming to Israel, but it is known that they are not on public display in Italy, but are kept in a vault in a museum in Milan.

The Italian government is going to bear to cost of insuring the artwork, which will come to hundreds of thousands of dollars per picture.

Visitors to the Knesset will be able to view the sketches on regular tours of the Knesset, or if they are invited to the parliament by an MK.

The works will be on display from February until just before Passover.

Berlusconi's early February visit to Israel had been in doubt following an attack on December 13 by a mentally ill man, who threw a figurine at Berlusconi during a rally, fracturing his nose and breaking his teeth.

He has hardly been seen in public since the attack and he canceled trips to Copenhagen and to Turkey he was to have made in the coming weeks.

Immediately after the incident, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin sent Berlusconi a telegram wishing him a speedy recovery.

A few days ago, the Knesset received a telegram from one of Berlusconi's advisers stating that the prime minster did not intend to miss his visit to the Israeli parliament. The adviser wrote that the visit is one of the highlights of his career," and he sees the speech he is to give to the Knesset plenum as the most important speech in his life along with the speech he gave to the U.S. Congress.

The Knesset House Committee is expected today to vote to permit Berlusconi to address the Knesset in Italian.