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Conflict in the Middle East: Massive 'One Jerusalem' Rally Under Way in Israel as President Clinton Escalates Peace Efforts

Aired January 8, 2001 - 1:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A massive rally is under way in Jerusalem. Israeli protesters are demanding the city remain unified and under Israeli control. This comes as President Clinton escalates his peace effort before leaving office.

Jerusalem Bureau chief Mike Hanna brings us the latest now live -- Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Natalie, I'm on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, and down below tens of thousands of Israeli who have come to express their support, their allegiance, they say, to Jerusalem. Amidst the crowd, numerous banners saying that Jerusalem will never be anything but the sovereign, undivided capital of Israel.

Behind me, the mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, is speaking to the masses down below. The organizers say this is not a political meeting. However, amidst the crowd, too, a number of posters highly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and of the peace process that he is attempting to conduct.

That peace process still staggering along. The U.S. envoy to the region, Dennis Ross, will arrive in the region within the next couple of days. He'll be holding talks both with Ehud Barak and with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. The talks aimed at getting clarity on the status of the latest U.S. proposals for a peace settlement that could perform the basis of further negotiation. However, both sides have accepted the proposals as a basis for negotiation, but with serious reservations.

What Dennis Ross will be attempting to find out is whether these reservations are such that they make the proposals themselves utterly invalid as a basis for negotiation.

But the size of the crowd here tonight indicates the depth of opposition among some sectors of Israeli society to any concessions being made whatsoever to the Palestinians. And this is a factor that Dennis Ross will have to consider during his talks with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. And it's a factor that Ehud Barak is going to have to contend with when he stands for reelection as prime minister in one month's time.

Back to you, Natalie. ALLEN: And, Mike, has Mr. Barak reacted to this rally going on tonight in Jerusalem?

HANNA: Well, no reaction from Mr. Barak as yet. However, his supporters have said that it is nothing more than a campaign rally for the right-wing Likud leader Ariel Sharon, who most of those Israelis here would most likely support as candidate for prime minister. So no formal reaction to the rally or to the size of the crowd that has come here, but Barak supporters have made quite clear that they believe that this is an attempt to bolster right-wing Israeli support and support throughout Israeli society for the right-wing candidate Ariel Sharon.

ALLEN: Mike Hanna, live in Jerusalem, thanks Mike.

Now over to Lou.

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