Events in the Middle East this weekend have done little to increase confidence, and this morning the tension in Jerusalem in particular is running high. Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has vetoed the latest stage in the programmed release of Palestinian prisoners. Some 400 were due for early release in the days to come.
The release has now been postponed, say the Israelis, because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not done enough to round up Palestinian militants. This has added to the ill-feeling generated by the apparent freezing of handovers of Israeli-occupied towns.
Early this morning Israeli police had to step in to prevent a march on the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem by Israeli extremists. The mosque lies on one of the holiest sites for Jews and Arabs alike, a recurrent flashpoint in their relationship. On news that the mosque had been the scene of scuffles, Palestinians turned up to pray.