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Wales Online | June 25, 2008

Protesters arrested at Israeli ambassador's visit

ISRAEL'S ambassador mounted a fierce defence of his nation amid arrests and protest as he visited the National Assembly.

Ambassador Ron Prosor was greeted by around 30 protesters who were joined by Plaid AMs Nerys Evans, Bethan Jenkins, Helen Mary Jones, and Leanne Wood – plus Plaid Cardiff councillor Neil McEvoy.

South Wales Police last night confirmed two women and a man were taken into custody for questioning after a "minor disturbance".

Mr Prosor met with the leaders of all four parties and a cross-party group of around 10 AMs took part in a discussion session organised by Plaid Cymru's Mohammad Asghar – the first Muslim politician elected to the Assembly.

But the Assembly's Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis-Thomas was not present – he had previously called for a boycott of the ambassador's visit.

In response Mr Prosor said a boycott was "against the Welsh spirit" and said of Lord Elis-Thomas: "Although a lord, his statements are not very noble."

The ambassador described Israel as a "democracy under fire" confronting Islamic extremists who threaten the stability of neighbouring countries.

He ruled out the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel and insisted Jerusalem must remain the capital of the Jewish state.

However, he said: "We are as a democracy trying to find a way to reach peace and we are looking for leaders who are really willing to sit down and make peace with us."

He said Israel had struck lasting peace settlements with Egypt and Jordan but could not negotiate with Hamas, which holds power in Gaza.

Mr Prosor said: "Instead of turning this into a model state they could be proud of they turned it into a terrorist hub. I could call it 'Hamastan'."

Negotiating with Hamas would, he said, encourage Muslim groups which threaten the stability of neighbouring countries.

The West, he added, should not demand Arab countries in the Middle East hold elections if it is likely an Islamist party will win power. He argued: "It's very clear today if there were real democratic elections the extremists, the fundamentalists, would have the upper hand."

The ambassador refused to contemplate a move to a South African style "binational" state, involving a merger of Israel and the Occupied Territories.

He said: "The one state solution is a code word for the destruction of the state of Israel, through numbers, through demographics. We will never, ever agree to that."

Plaid's Ms Wood explained her decision to join the protest, saying: "The Israeli ambassador has been able to travel here unhindered, which is in stark contrast to the way Palestinian people are corralled by Israeli troops, herded through security gates and kept in what has become virtually an open prison."

Conservative Assembly leader Nick Bourne defended Mr Asghar's decision to invite Mr Prosor to the cross-party meeting, saying: "I think it was an act of political courage for a Muslim to arrange the meeting with the ambassador."

He also defended the position of the Lord Elis-Thomas, stating: "There is no appetite in our group for seeking the removal of the Presiding Officer. From day one he has had our support."

Protester Andy Williams, a journalism researcher at Cardiff University, said the party leaders had been used in a public relations exercise by the Israeli government.

He said: "Any opportunity the new ambassador gets to bang the drum and spread his propaganda, he'll take it. I think our politicians have been caught hook, line and sinker."

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2008/06/25/protesters-arrested-as-israeli-ambassador-s-visit-sparks-row-91466-21145494/

Posted on 25-06-2008


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