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Jews protest Arab construction in Israel

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Jews protest Arab construction in Israel

More than 1,000 police officers were deployed to the southern Israeli Bedouin town of Rahat on Sunday morning as two dozen Jewish right-wing extremists protested what they said was unlawful Arab construction on neighboring hilltops.

Several hundred Bedouin residents who are Israeli citizens held a counter-demonstration in the center of town. About 25 protesters arrived in two buses under police presence. They were allowed to march a short distance, as police on horseback and in a helicopter hovered around.

Police closed off the main road to prevent the two sides from coming into contact.

“They are taking over the land of Israel without permission, building on hilltops as you can see here to the right and to the left,” said Baruch Marzel, who is associated with the banned Kach movement.

Far-right parliament member Michael Ben Ari of the National Union party said allowing Bedouins to settle on hilltops while removing Jews from hilltops in the West Bank is discrimination. In the town center, residents held a demonstration with lawmakers from Israeli Arab parties in attendance.

Talab El-Sana, a Bedouin from the Democratic Arab Party, urged the counter-demonstrators to show restraint.

“We told the people to be quiet, we are not against the policemen, we are against these people who call for discrimination or transfer for the Arabs,” he told CNN.

The march ended without any major incident.

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Israel’s Lieberman says won’t “choke” settlements

333Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks during his visit to the northern town of Shefaram, one of Israel’s largest Arab towns, July 2, 2009.

Israel’s Lieberman says won’t “choke” settlements

SHEFARAM, Israel (Reuters) – Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during a rare visit to an Israeli-Arab town on Thursday assailed a U.S.-led campaign to stop settlement building, calling it “disproportionate”.

Lieberman took a tougher tone than others in Israel’s right-wing government in response to Washington’s demands to stop building in West Bank land seized in a 1967 war.

The ultranationalist cited world concerns about North Korea’s latest missile tests and a disputed election in Iran, a country accused of developing a nuclear programme for military purposes, though Tehran says it to generate electricity.

“Have matters not become disproportionate?,” Lieberman said. I think we should put things back in perspective.”

“We cannot agree to choke these same people with our own hands by not allowing them simply normal life as everywhere else,” Lieberman said of the settlers, who number about 500,000 in a territory that also is home to 3 million Palestinians.

Lieberman, who is a settler, also took issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks on Thursday to the Bundestag that “there must be a stop” to settlement building.

Washington’s calls for a total halt to settlement building in land Palestinians seek for a state has opened the most serious rift in U.S.-Israeli relations in a decade.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also insists on a settlement freeze before peace talks can resume.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak suggested on Wednesday that Israel could consider a moratorium in construction in the settlements, but on condition that Arab states were persuaded to normalise ties with the Jewish state.

Accused by some Israeli Arabs of being a racist for questioning their loyalty to the Jewish state, Lieberman visited an unusual bastion of support in a Druse neighbourhood in Shefaram, a large Arab town in northern Israel’s Galilee.

Unlike Muslims and most Christian Arab citizens, most of the Druse serve in Israel’s military.

Most Israeli Arabs, about a fifth of the population, are descended from Palestinians who stayed in what is now Israel when hundreds of thousands of others fled or were driven out during a war over the Jewish state’s creation.

Lieberman promised to help the Druse resolve a local government debt and create more jobs despite state budget cuts.

His party, Yisrael Beitenu, became Israel’s third largest in a February election, due in part to support from the Druse community.

(Additional reporting by Noah Barkin, editing by Michael Roddy)

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