Rock-throwing Palestinians clashed with Israeli police today near a march being held by Israeli right-wingers through a tense neighbourhood of annexed Arab east Jerusalem. The fighting took place several hundred metres away from where the flag-waving marchers made a statement "affirming Jewish sovereignty over the whole city." There were no reports of casualties or arrests. The march had drawn widespread objections in Israel, including from the mostly right wing government of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had sought to prevent it from being held.
It came as the United States has been pressing Israel not to take actions in the city that could undermine efforts to revive the peace process with the Palestinians, which has been suspended since December 2008. The march took place as US president Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, met Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an effort to restart the stalled talks. "We have come to say to Obama and to George Mitchell that Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people and not to the Arabs," said Itamar Ben Gvir, one of the march's organisers.
Mr Netanyahu had asked law enforcement authorities to stop the rally taking place but Israel's Supreme Court upheld their right to demonstrate. Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau, of the hardline Yisrael Beitenu party, said he regretted the event. "It's a shame that a provocation of this sort takes place," he told reporters at the weekly cabinet meeting. "I would rather it didn't happen." Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied and annexed in 1967 in a move not recognised by the international community, has been at the heart of a months-old deadlock in efforts to restart the peace process.
Israel views the entire city as its "eternal, indivisible" capital, while the Palestinians have demanded east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state and have refused to relaunch negotiations unless Israel freezes settlement activity there. * AFP