Some say a picture is worth a thousand words. Surely the above photograph above of two aging heads of state on opposite sides of the Mediterranean is worth a thousand or even more or less. If you did not know the headline, what do you think these two men would be talking about? If you guessed immigration, you would be almost right. If you guessed romance and cross-cultural marriages, you would be exactly right, if The Guardian is to be believed. The Libyan government is using the services of an Italian match-making site called hostessweb to bring Italian women to Libya. The site is even available in 53 different languages, including Arabic, Swahili and Persian. All you need is an Internet connection and a credit card and some mutual language besides the universal code of love.

It seems that both Colonel Gaddafi and Silvio Berlusconi are friends. One might speculate on what they have in common. Being unpopular perhaps for their dictatorial ways? A soft spot for the gentler gender? Or maybe just a penchant to do favors for nephews. It seems that Colonel Gaddafi is worried about his nephew’s matrimonial future. As The Guardian reports:

“But he is also interested in romances developing between youths from Libya and Italy.” Gaddafi reportedly has high hopes that romance will spark between Clio Evans, 24, a half-English actor from Rome who has visited Libya four times, and his nephew, Ghazali.

“The colonel said: ‘There is someone who would like your hand in marriage’,” said Clio, whose father is from Beverley, east Yorkshire. “I was like, uh-oh, but Ghazali is cute, tall, and funny.”

So how did this all start? Well why not blame the Vatican, as in any situation involving erotic overtones in Italy. To continue:

Gaddafi first got to know the women from Londero’s agency when they were hired to hear him speak about Islamic culture during visits to Rome in 2009 and in August this year when he was criticised by the Vatican for advising his audience to convert to Islam.

Londero said he has now organised six trips to Libya for his hostesses, with Gaddafi on hand to greet them each time. “I used all my cards to impress Gaddafi, who is a real gentleman,” said Evans. “He gave me one of the necklaces with his image on it which he usually gives to his female bodyguards. Then he introduced me to Ghazali.”

At a dinner during the latest trip, Evans and Ghazali were placed alone at a candlelit table, with an interpreter. “We have tried to speak on the phone since my return but this is hardgoing since I don’t speak Arabic. Plus he is Muslim and I am staying Christian,” she said.

Divisi casual per gli eventi sportivi, Roma, left;hostess Maria Giovanna, right

Unlike Berlusconi, whose media empire can generate an audience wherever he goes, the younger and prettier the better, the Libyan leader has to buy his. He can order a whole group performance or choose the bella donnas by city. If Gaddafi (or someone with sufficient money) makes a short trip to Palermo, for instance, there is Gabrieli, a 24-year old with the following details: Height: 175; Hair: brown; Eyes: brown, Physical: Long-limbed; Size: 38; Weight: 52, Shoes: 39; Education: diploma; Languages: Italian Portuguese; Presentation: No presentation. Or there is Maria Giovanna, who speaks English and French and has quite an extensive range of skills, including “JAZZ DANCER, DANCER TANGO AND CLASSIC ITALIAN, LATIN AMERICAN DANCER, LINGERIE MODELS PICTURES; L’OREAL FASHION MODEL, TV COMPETITOR’S LEGACY ‘OF AMADEUS.” There are literally hundreds of models to choose from and no doubt Silvio has partied with the majority as an Italian sex symbol yacht to.

But perhaps The Guardian and cynical readers are misreading Colonel Gaddafi, not understanding in proper context his interest in hot looking Italian women who want to learn more about Libyan culture and find suitable Libyan husbands. I see two possibilities as yet unreported in the news. First, think of the economic stimulus if these half-naked, mini-skirted Italian women do get married to Libyan men and have to start wearing long robes and veils. The Libyan cloth merchants and tailors will be very pleased. And the conservative clerics will be happy as well that Gaddafi has finally overcome his socialist leanings and come back to the fold. I realize this would be a minor stimulus package for such an oil rich country, but some day the oil will run out. Even if this is in another century and Gaddafi is still in charge, he needs to start creating more work for his people now.

There is a second possibility that is so suave it has Gaddafi written all over it. What if this is really a secret overture to normalizing relations with the state of Israel. Stranger things have happened. Well, not in the last millennium or so, but there surely must be precedents in the Ancient World. I note that hostessweb also is accessible in Hebrew. By seeking women on a site that does not discriminate on the basis of language spoken or political bias, it could even be that a Libyan with decent North African colloquial Italian and a Zionist speaking mediocre Italian with a Yiddish accident would be hiring the same model at the same time. Perhaps Gaddafi realizes that the problem in Palestine is less about building settlements (just wait until the mortgage crisis hits and rich Arab sheikhs from Dubai buy up those enclaves of former Brooklyn residents) than what could theoretically go on inside. If political expediency cannot solve the Arab-Israeli crisis, perhaps sexual fantasy can yield progress towards a short-term sensible solution. Perhaps the beauty of Italian women can bridge the trust gap between Netanyahu and ‘Abbas by working from the ground up. If Sophia Loren movies can be shown on cable in both Libya and Israel, the peace dividend can be media made, just like Fox News has created the Tea Party in the United States. And when a final agreement is made, it is only fitting that it be signed on Berlusconi’s yacht and supply the audience.

Luke R. E. Publican