.- Dispute between Israel and the Vatican over recent comments the Pope made on terrorism appears to have been resolved after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI calling him "a true friend of Israel," Israel's ambassador to the Vatican said Friday. Israel's top diplomat at the Holy See, Oded Ben Hur, brought the letter Tuesday to the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in what Ben Hur called an "amicable and intimate" meeting that signaled that "we definitely see this thing behind us and are looking forward to improving our relationship.
The dispute began in July, when Israel summoned the Vatican envoy to complain that Benedict had "deliberately failed" to include a July 12 suicide bombing in Netanya when he listed countries recently hit by terrorist attacks, including Egypt, Britain, Turkey and Iraq.
In his letter, Sharon said Benedict's efforts to promote dialogue with Jews and Israel made him "a true friend of Israel, genuinely committed to advancing tolerance, understanding and reconciliation," Ben Hur said in a phone interview, reading from the letter. He said Sharon then explained the reasons for his country's reaction to the omission.
"Israel has been devastated and victimized by terrorism and we are very sensitive to any attempt to distinguish between Islamic terrorism which systematically targets innocent Israeli civilians and that which is aimed at citizens of other countries," the ambassador quoted the letter as saying.
Sodano expressed his satisfaction with the letter during Tuesday's meeting, saying that both sides had made mistakes and that he was happy to put the issue behind him.â
Ben Hur said the Vatican said the omission of Israel on the list was unintentional and the result of hastily prepared remarks.
Ben Hur confirmed that Israel's two chief rabbis will meet with the pope Sept. 15, although he said the meeting has been in the works for some time and was due to coincide with commemorations marking the 40th anniversary of the Vatican's Nostra Aetate declaration that revolutionized its relations with Jews.