Palestinians Have A “Day Of Rage” As Israel Is Becoming More Isolated

Photo By Ann Paq For Clashes in East-Jerusalem 3/16/2010

Today rioting broke out in East-Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. The police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas canisters at protesters. The demonstration today was called “Day of Rage” by Palestinians over the reopening of a Synagogue in the old city, and the announcement made by the Israeli Interior Ministry last week of building an additional 1,600 new Jewish settlements within the boundaries of   the occupied territories. The Hurva Synagogue reopened for the first time in 62 years on Monday.

Photo by Anne Paq for ActiveStills/ Clashes in East-Jerusalem on 3/16/2010

According to the Red Crescent, 90 people were wounded in today’s clashes; with 15 people suffering serious injuries from rubber coated steel bullets (which can be lethal) and tear gas inhalation. Some protesters were also severely beaten by the 3,000 strong Israeli forces.

Meanwhile in Gaza thousands of people took to the streets to march in solidarity of their fellow Palestinians in East-Jerusalem. Palestinians in Gaza  were marching and chanting: “With our blood, with our souls, we sacrifice for you Jerusalem”.

On the diplomatic front, the tensions are growing between Washington and Jerusalem. Another sign was the postponement today of US envoy George Mitchell’s trip to the region. The Obama administration seems to be opting for a new strategy towards the Natanyahu administration since the giant slap in the face which was given to VP Joe Biden by the Israeli government in the form of the surprise announcement of the building of 1,600 new settlements in the occupied territories. The growing rift between the US and Israel coincides with the tensions building between Israel and the EU over last year war in Gaza and the recent assassination of a Senior Hamas leader in Dubai by operatives who are suspected to be Mossad agents using fake passports from the UK, Ireland, France and Germany.

Meanwhile in Israel, a group of far-right activists announced on Tuesday their plan to hang hundreds of posters across the country depicting President Obama under the headline: “Agent of the PLO”. The banner is already on display at the office of the far-right National Union party.

“The poster is within the limits of the country’s freedom of speech. I pity those who clapped during VP Joe Biden’s speech. Obama is anti- Semitic, pro-Arab, and an agent of the PLO,” said Itamar Ben Gvir, a spokesman for Ben Ari, the leader of the far-right group.

At some point, and providing Washington keeps the pressure up on the  Netanyahu administration, the Israeli government will have to decide which policy elements matter the most for Israel’s future: The “special relationship” with the United States which could be put in jeopardy and should be reevaluated by Washington in any case,  or catering to some extremist far-right Israeli groups?

In New-York, UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urgently appealed for “restrain from all sides”, after today’s violent clashes in East-Jerusalem. The Secretary General also made the pledge to push again for direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis to resume.

“As I have said it before, I say it again, directly and without equivocation: Settlements are illegal under international law,” said Ban Ki-moon at his monthly press conference today at the UN headquarters in New-York.

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