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Middle East
Israel braced for rightwing rally
Jewish activists want hundreds of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem pulled down.
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2010 08:06 GMT
The planned march comes as the US envoy to the
 region moves to restart stalled peace talks [AFP]

Jewish activists have said they will march in the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem as Israel prepares to declare the beginning of US-mediated indirect talks with the Palestians.

The rightwing activists, led by Baruch Marzel and Itamar-Gvir, are demanding the demolition of 216 Palestinian homes they say were illegally built in the area.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland said police declined a request from Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to cancel the planned protest on Sunday.

The demonstration was originally scheduled for March but was delayed by the police until after the Jewish Passover.

"We shall consummmate our right to march in the village and demand the demolition of hundreds of illegal huses," Ben-Gvir said.

Talks for May

The Silwan march comes as officials involved in efforts to renew the peace process have been quoted by Israel's Haaretz daily as saying that proximity talks between Israel and Palestinians will start no later than mid-May.

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The newspaper did not mention a cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday, at which the announcement is expected to be made.

However, it said Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, had received an invitation to the talks from Barack Obama, the US president.

But Obama acknowledged he was unable to extract a commitment from Binyamin Netantahu, the Israeli prime minister, to freeze construction of housing units in East Jerusalem, Haaretz said.

George Mitchell, the US envoy to the Middle East, told Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Friday that Washington was committed to Israel's security and wanted a peace settlement that would give the Palestinians a state.

"That has been American policy. That is American policy. That will be American policy," Mitchell said.

Mitchell is due to meet Netanyahu again on Sunday.

The Palestinians have demanded a halt to housing projects on land they want for their state if the talks, suspended in December 2008, are to resume.

Last February, Israel announced it would construct 1,600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, sparking outrage and embarrassing Joe Biden, the US vice-president, who was on a visit to try to kickstart indirect talks.

Abbas said on Saturday that Obama should impose a peace deal but rejected the idea of establishing a state within temporary borders.

"Since you, Mr President and you, the members of the American administration, believe in this, it is your duty to call for the steps in order to reach the solution and impose the solution - impose it," he said.

"But don't tell me it's a vital national strategic American interest ... and then not do anything."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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