Skip to comments.Israel lifts West Bank restrictions
Posted on 03/17/2010 9:33:14 PM PDT by myknowledge
Israel on Wednesday lifted its tight restrictions on Palestinian access to Jerusalem's holiest shrine and called off an extended West Bank closure after days of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
Despite moving to end the lockdown, Israel still kept thousands of police officers on alert as an uneasy calm settled over the holy city.
The recent violence has taken place against a backdrop of deep Palestinian frustration over a yearlong standstill in peace talks and dovetailed with the worst US-Israeli diplomatic feud in decades.
On Tuesday, the US and Israel signaled they were trying to move beyond the crisis that erupted when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 apartments in disputed east Jerusalem during Vice-President Joe Biden's visit last week. Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone on Tuesday night, Israeli officials said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the conversation, did not disclose the substance of the talk.
While there were no reports of new clashes in Jerusalem, sporadic violence broke out on Wednesday in the West Bank. The most serious incident occurred in the northern city of Nablus, where dozens of Palestinian youths hurled rocks at Israeli security forces, some using slingshots and even a shovel to increase their range.
Israeli troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Medics said two Palestinians were wounded.
The recent protests have been fuelled by the plans for more Jewish housing in east Jerusalem and unsubstantiated rumours that Jewish extremists are planning to seize the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam's third-holiest shrine.
East Jerusalem, which had the heaviest clashes in months after similar rumours surfaced earlier this week, was quiet on Wednesday.
The Israelis said the decision to end the lockdown was based on intelligence reports.
Israel also rescinded its closure of the West Bank that had prevented virtually all Palestinians there from crossing into Israel. Thousands of Palestinians enter Israel each day for work, medical care and other services.
The hilltop where Al-Aqsa stands is also Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount, where the biblical Jewish temples once stood. The conflicting claims to the compound make the future of the holy city the most charged issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and immediately annexed the area. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their capital.
The US, which has been working for more than a year to get both sides negotiating again, has harshly criticised the latest Israeli construction plan. This week, Mideast envoy George Mitchell called off a trip to the area that had been expected to wrap up preparations for US-mediated talks to begin.
Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman condemned international criticism of the housing project on Wednesday. "The demand to ban Jews from living in east Jerusalem is simply unreasonable," Lieberman said after a meeting with the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "We think Jerusalem as the capital of Israel must be accessible to everybody, Christians, Muslims and Jews."
In the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Washington's criticism of Israel, and noted that the Jewish state had committed to stopping all settlement construction under a 2003 peace blueprint known as the "road map".
"Right now, the US administration is expressing this strongly. I ask that (Israel) abide by these commitments so we can head to indirect talks," he said.
Israel says the Palestinians haven't met their road map obligations to root out militants.
Israeli officials say they have been discussing with Washington ways to salvage the talks. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to defuse the situation by stressing the US commitment to Israel's security, though she said she is still waiting for Israel to prove it's serious about making peace.
Israel maintains that its annexation of east Jerusalem after capturing it 1967 entitles it to build there, but the Palestinians and the international community do not recognise Israeli sovereignty there.
No, they were fueled by the administration of Hussein Obama making a huge deal out of the timing of the announcement.
Give it a day at most.
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
The Obama riots are only a couple days old.
Palestinian access to Jerusalem's holiest shrineThis op-ed doesn't point out that the reason it was closed in the first place was because of some a-hole imam inciting a mob of Muzzie idiots to start throwing rocks from the Mount. Shows how sacred they actually hold the place. Thanks myknowledge.