updated 7/10/2005 6:06:16 AM ET 2005-07-10T10:06:16

Israeli officials on Sunday rejected British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s contention that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the underlying causes of terrorism, saying the London bombings were part of a wider terrorist war on Western countries.

Israeli officials have long stressed the global nature of terror, apparently wary that a connection between attacks in Europe or the United States and Middle East policy could increase pressure on Israel to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians.

Israeli Vice Premier Ehud Olmert said Sunday that “the terrorists operating in London last week were doing it as part of a comprehensive terrorist war against the Western civilization similar to what they’ve done in America, similar to what they’ve done in Spain.”

Cabinet Minister Matan Vilnai said democracies including Israel are being targeted by terror. “We are part of it and the whole free world is now part of it,” he said.

‘Pull it up by its roots’
In a weekend interview on BBC Radio, Blair said it was crucial to address terrorism’s underlying causes, which he identified as deprivation, lack of democracy and ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

“I think this type of terrorism has very deep roots. As well as dealing with the consequences of this — trying to protect ourselves as much as any civil society can — you have to try to pull it up by its roots,” Blair said. He added that this meant boosting understanding between people of different religions, helping people in the Middle East see a path to democracy and easing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Blair had “touched reality and spoke strategically of the need to deal with the problems of this region.”

“I believe a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not involve reinventing the wheel. We all know the parameters. We all the know that this is going to be a two-state solution. We all know that Israel needs to end its occupation and secondly we need to see democracy in this region,” he said.

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