LONDON - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Tuesday afternoon with UK Premier Gordon Brown. Netanyahu had to be ushered into the official Downing Street residence via the back door, as the front entrance was the scene of a pro-Palestinians rally.
The rally, attended by hundreds of people, began about 30 minutes prior to Netanyahu's arrival at Number 10, causing both the British and Israeli security officers present to heighten alert, fearing the Israeli prime minister's convoy may be targeted.
Brown met Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador to London Ron Prosor at the door, and all three were rushed in by their respective security details.
At some point, several demonstrators tried breaching the secured perimeter, but were stopped by British police. Demonstrators hollered slogans the likes of "Free Palestine" and "Netanyahu's a war criminal," and carried signs reading "Judea and Samaria are Palestinian territory," "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine," and "Let the Palestinians live."
The protest rally (Photo: Reuters)
The two held a joint press conference after their meeting, in which Brown said the UK was and is a loyal friend to Israel and that it supports the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Nevertheless, brown stressed that that the demand to halt settlement construction remains in place, as the settlements are what impedes the two-state solution.
Jerusalem, responded Netanyahu, "Is not a settlement. It is the sovereign capital of the State of Israel. We have been building in Jerusalem for 3,000 years."
Brown added that he supported Netanyahu's plan to assist in the rehabilitation of the Palestinian economy and called on the international community to support a financial peace.
Turning their attention to the Iranian threat, Brown said that as far as the UK is concerned, such a threat "has no place in a civilized world." London, he added, shares Jerusalem's concern regarding Tehran's nuclear development program and urged the latter to accept US President Barack Obama's offer to launch a dialogue on the matter.
Netanyahu echoed the sentiment, saying that "London, like other European capitals, must speak against the Iranian nuclear program."
Netanyahu and Brown (Photo: GPO)
Netanyahu is expected to meet with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in London on Wednesday and is expected to ask the US administration to pressure Saudi Arabia into making several goodwill gestures towards Israel, before agreeing to the American demand to halt settlement construction.
While Netanyahu believes that some progress was made by his emissaries to Washington last week, added the source, he also believes that no significant breakthrough which warrants such a categorical demand was achieved, either.
Speaking with reporters, Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian Authority "for doing noting but set preconditions for peace and hardening their stance during the Fatah Congress."
Netanyahu did not comment on Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's statements regarding the establishing of a Palestinian state within two years.
Following reports of a possible peace summit with Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September, Netanyahu stressed that nothing has been finalized at this time, adding that Jerusalem was appreciative of Washington's efforts to achieve normalization overtures from the Arab world towards Israel.
As for Syria, Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Israeli-Syrian peace process has stalled because of Damascus' support of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah, adding that "Syria's actions do not indicate that it wants peace. It has taken no steps to curb the terror organizations."
The prime minister also said that he spoke to brown about the legal threat posed to IDF officers in British courts: "I told him that is simply did not coincide with common sense. We're fighting the same terrorists and we're exercising our right to self defense. No one accuses the British Army of anything and no one should accuse the IDF or its officers," he said.
According to Netanyahu, Brown said he would look into a legislative change in the matter. The British premier also voiced his objections to the academic and consumer bans against Israel in the UK.