Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Storm in a Martini glass

From Giuseppe Mascoli

Sir: Boris Johnson's and Nicholas Farrell's article in The Spectator ('Forza Berlusconi!', 6 September) has created turmoil in Italy. In particular, Berlusconi's claims that the judges are 'mad' and that to be one 'you need to be mentally disturbed' have provoked incredulous reactions from institutional figures and unprecedented attacks from his own allies. Following those outbursts, Carriere della Sera asked a psychologist to analyse Bcrlusconi. Verdict: megalomania.

Reading the article in The Spectator, I got the impression that Berlusconi was carried away by the flamboyancy of the two apologists from England (the length of time he granted them was unprecedented, as was the fact that he personally chauffeured them around). This is not entirely surprising. Berlusconi is cither vilified by the press he does not own or brown-nosed by the press he docs (neither much fun, really). So the visit of Johnson and Farrell must have been rather refreshing. In the grounds of one of the most spectacular villas in the world, with all the extravagance that goes with briskly acquired wealth and accompanied by two honourable and well-meaning enthusiasts, it must have been easy for the exuberant Prime Minister to let loose. So he came to slur the magistrates (and also branded them 'anthropologically different'). 'The shaking of a Martini in Costa Azzurra creates an earthquake in Rome' should have been the line taken by the Italian newspapers, hut the press is too serious. The matter was gravely debated, and all its implications about separation of powers, conflicts of interest, etc.

Many will have assumed that the overly domesticated eulogy to the notorious Prime Minister would have left out all the juicy hits. Quite the contrary. The peacable attitude of the two summoned journalists would have operated as a sort of Socratic maieutic. A swarm of journalists have in the past confronted Berlusconi on the issue of his tumultuous relations with the law. Does he loathe the judiciary? He has always emphatically denied that. Until this interview, Berlusconi has always claimed that he respected judges and magistrates - he only opposed the 'few rotten apples'. Now that the unfettered Prime Minister has spoken his mind about them, praise is due to an elite publication in the United Kingdom that is unknown to most Italians. So chapeaux to The Spectator.

Giuseppe Mascoli

London W1

From Chris White

Sir: Do not forget that Jay Gatshy made a virtue of keeping his mouth shut, something that Silvio Berlusconi would do well to emulate. Indeed, although the Italian premier may he for you 'better than the whole damn lot of them', you would do well to quote the final sentence of P. Scott Fitzgerald's great novel: 'So we heat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.' This is the problem that some of us have with Mr Berlusconi.

Chris White

London SW8

Dividing Israel

From Deborah Maccoby

Sir: Douglas Davis writes that the Palestinian leadership has a 'phased plan' which 'stipulates that whatever territory Israel surrenders will be used as a platform for further territorial gains until the "complete liberation of Palestine" is achieved' ('Biological warfare, 6 September). Yet earlier in his piece Mr Davis also condemns the Palestinian leadership for turning down Israel's offer to surrender territory at Camp David. If the Palestinians really do have this 'phased plan', why didn't they accept whatever territory was offered? The two accusations cancel each other out.

In fact, the Israeli offer at Camp David was not as generous as Mr Davis makes out. The West Bank would have been cut into two by roads going to Israeli army bases and settlements in the Jordan Valley; there was no equitable land swap (the Israelis' final offer was to annex 9 per cent of the West Bank and give only I per cent of Israeli territory in return); there would have been no Palestinian control of borders, water or air space; in Jerusalem, the Israelis would not allow Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount and also wanted to keep large blocks of settlements which would have surrounded Palestinians with areas of Israeli sovereignty. …

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