(JERUSALEM) -- A statement from the Vatican following a two week conference of Middle Eastern bishops has Israeli officials responding on the record to what they're calling inappropriate political attacks.
The Vatican summit of bishops from the Middle East got political in their closing statement, blaming Israeli policies more than any other issue for the Mideast conflict. Israel's West Bank separation barrier and military checkpoints were criticized, and the bishops called for Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian lands.
Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Avalon responded in a statement, saying it was disappointing that a religious conference on Christians in the region became a forum for political attacks on Israel. "An anti-Israel majority," Avalon said, has hijacked the forum.
The Israeli foreign ministry also responded to a part of the bishops' concluding statement that said Israel should not rely on biblical claims to the land of Israel to justify injustices against Palestinians.
A senior negotiator for the Palestinians, Saeb Erekat, welcomed the bishops' conclusions. He said the international community must uphold it's legal and moral responsibility to end the "illegal occupation."
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