Protesters heckle Laura Bush in Jerusalem - East Valley Tribune: News

Protesters heckle Laura Bush in Jerusalem

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Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2005 3:31 pm | Updated: 8:52 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

JERUSALEM - Protesters besieged Laura Bush during her visit Sunday to two of Jerusalem's most sacred sites, with Israeli police locking arms to restrain the crowd and Secret Service agents packed tightly around America's first lady.

Stepping into the long-running Mideast conflict, she appealed for Israelis and Palestinians to commit to working for peace and said Americans "will do what they can in this process."

The demonstrations at the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock showed "what an emotional place this is as we go from each one of these very, very holy sites to the next," Mrs. Bush said later in the West Bank town of Jericho as she stood at the ruins of the 8th-century Hisham's Palace.

"We're reminded again of what every one of us would want. ... What we all want is peace and the chance that we have right now to have peace, to have a Palestinian state living by a secure state of Israel, both living in democracy, is as close as we've been in a really long time," she said at an ancient home of Islamic spiritual leaders.

Mrs. Bush, who is on a tour intended partly to help defuse anti-American sentiment in the region, placed a note in the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest shrine. She wrote the note on the flight Sunday from Jordan to Israel, but wanted to keep the contents private, a spokeswoman said.

Dozens of protesters stood nearby, shouting, "Free Pollard now." Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who is serving life sentence in a U.S. prison for spying for Israel, was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy.

The first lady was mobbed by protesters and local reporters, and Secret Service agents and Israeli police had to physically hold back the crowd as she approached the wall.

She then went to the Dome of the Rock, a mosque on a hilltop compound known to Muslims as Haram as-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount. As she left the mosque, one heckler yelled, "How dare you come in here! Why your husband kill Muslim?"

Mrs. Bush removed her shoes as she entered the mosque and walked barefoot on the red carpet. She held a black scarf tightly around her head as she gazed up at the gilded dome and the colorful mosaics on the marble walls.

Some of the women studying inside the mosque were clearly annoyed at the intrusion and waved their fingers at the U.S. entourage. Despite the chaos at both sites, Mrs. Bush kept smiling and said little.

In Jericho, which is under Palestinian control, security was tight and no protesters were evident when Mrs. Bush visited the ruins and met at a hotel with leading Palestinian women.

"As you can tell from our day here, this is a place of emotions everywhere we went, from the Dome of the Rock to the Western Wall" she told reporters at the palace ruins.

As for the peace process, Mrs. Bush said the U.S. would do whatever it could, but that both sides share responsibility in helping achieve peace.

"It will take a lot of baby steps and I'm sure that there will be a few steps backward on the way, but I want to encourage the people I met with earlier, the women I just met with, that the United States will do what they can in this process," Mrs. Bush said.

"It also requires the work of the people here, of the Palestinians and the Israelis, to come to the table obviously, and we'll see," she said.

The first lady met in Jericho with leading Palestinian women before visiting the palace. Earlier, she held talks with Gila Katsav, the wife of Israel's president, and other leading Israeli women.

Anti-American sentiment is running high in the Mideast because of a variety of factors, including a now-retracted report in Newsweek that Pentagon investigators had found evidence interrogators at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, placed copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, in washrooms to unsettle suspects and flushed a Quran down a toilet.

"We in principle don't reject anyone's visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque (compound), but we see in the visit of Mrs. Bush an attempt to whitewash the face of the United States, after the crimes that the American interrogators had committed when they desecrated the Quran," the militant Islamic Hamas group said in a statement on its Web site.

Adnan Husseini, director of the Islamic Trust that administers the mosque compound, said Mrs. Bush tried to play down the heckling, saying it could have happened anywhere.

Husseini said he told her he hoped President Bush would exert pressure to achieve peace in the Holy Land. Bush is meeting on Thursday at the White House with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Later Sunday, Mrs. Bush laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, the Israeli memorial for the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust of World War II.

She wrote in the visitors' book at the site: "Each life is precious. Each memory calls us to action to honor those lost. We committ ourselves to reject hatred and to teach tolerance and live in peace. Thank you."

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