Pope John Paul's plea for Israel to build bridges with the Palestinians, rather the wall it is currently constructing in the West Bank, has drawn a sharp response from the Israeli government. A senior official close to prime minister Ariel Sharon, said the Israeli prime minister respected the Pope but added: "But we can't build bridges over dead bodies." Israel insists the wall separating Israel from the West Bank is needed to keep suicide bombers out. Speaking on Sunday the Pope said: "The construction of a wall between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is seen by many as a new obstacle on the road to peaceful cohabitation. The Holy Land does not need walls but bridges." Sharon, who is just completing a three day visit to Rome, did not meet the pope during his stay. Vatican sources said the pontiff would have met with Sharon if a meeting had been requested. But Israeli officials said Sharon's trip to Rome was aimed primarily at thanking Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for his support of Israel during Italy's presidency of the European Union. A large part of the barrier, which US president George W Bush has also criticised, is being erected on occupied land and isolating thousands of Palestinians.
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