There have been further clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces after Benjamin Netanyahu’s government advanced plans to build more than 1,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem.
Speaking at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session, the Israeli Prime Minister vigorously defended Israel’s right to build.
“The French build in Paris, the English build in London, the Israelis build in Jerusalem,” he said.
But Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognised, meaning most of the world views Israeli enclaves there as illegal settlements.
Even within Israel’s government, the timing has caused consternation.
“I don’t oppose building in the major
settlement blocks in principle, but at this
time, when the diplomatic process is
stalled and we need to rebuild our
relations with the United States,
this plan will be opposed by Yesh Atid
and we will work to prevent it,” said Israeli Finance Minster Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party.
Amid rising tensions in East Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has visited the al-Aqsa mosque in the historic Old City.
He used the opportunity to send a message to those listening faraway.
“We are asking for international protection for the holy town, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” Hamdallah told reporters.
“We are appealing to the international community and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to provide immediate international protection. We say to Israel that 48 years of occupation are enough, stop the occupation.”
But after the failure of US-brokered peace talks, a summer war in Gaza and fresh bloodshed on both sides, there is little sign of any breakthrough in the Middle East.