Israel's Netanyahu greeted by protests on arrival in London

2015-09-09 21:31
A pro-Palestinian demonstrator carrying a placard depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins others during a protest outside the gates of Downing Street in. (Justin Tallis, AFP)

A pro-Palestinian demonstrator carrying a placard depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins others during a protest outside the gates of Downing Street in. (Justin Tallis, AFP)

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London - Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel activists on Wednesday held rival protests in London, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had arrived for talks with his British counterpart David Cameron.

An estimated 300 pro-Palestinian activists gathered near Downing Street, which houses Cameron's official residence, many carrying Palestinian flags and placards bearing slogans such as "Free Palestine" and "End Israel's attacks on Gaza”.

Several dozen rival protesters holding Israeli flags faced the pro-Palestinian group from across the street.

Netanyahu and Cameron are scheduled to hold formal talks early on Thursday.

The two leaders will discuss "diplomatic, strategic and bilateral issues, as well as joint challenges in the fields of security, economics and cyber [security]," according to Netanyahu's office.

Leaders of four large trade unions and three British lawmakers voiced opposition to the visit in a letter published in the Guardian on Monday. It stressed that Netanyahu "must bear responsibility for war crimes identified by the UN human rights council in its investigation into Israel's 2014 assault on Gaza”.

Film director Ken Loach and several other celebrities added their names to the letter, which said Cameron "should not be welcoming the man who presides over Israel's occupation and its siege of Gaza”.

An online petition to parliament calling for Netanyahu's arrest on arrival in Britain had attracted more than 108 000 supporters by Wednesday, forcing a parliamentary debate.

In response to the petition, the government said Britain was a "close friend of Israel" and Netanyahu enjoyed "complete immunity from criminal jurisdiction" under diplomatic protocol.

"We recognise that the conflict in Gaza last year took a terrible toll," the government statement said.

"However, the prime minister was clear on the UK's recognition of Israel's right to take proportionate action to defend itself, within the boundaries of international humanitarian law."

Downing Street named a "two-state solution, based on 1967 borders" as a priority in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that the government "will reinforce this message to Mr Netanyahu during his visit”.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet other British politicians and Jewish community leaders during his two-day visit.

He last met Cameron during the British prime minister's visit to Israel in March last year.

Read more on:    david cameron  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  uk

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