Benjamin Netanyahu faces protests ahead of talks with David Cameron


Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to face intense protests as he heads to Downing Street for talks with David Cameron.

Palestinian and Israeli groups clashed when they gathered outside No 10 on Wednesday as the premier flew into Britain.

A petition calling for Mr Netanyahu to be arrested on his arrival for war crimes over the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians following the military offensive in Gaza last summer has attracted more than 108,000 signatures.

Both sides declared victory after a ceasefire was secured to halt the seven-week war that also left tens of thousands in Gaza homeless and devastated entire neighbourhoods in the blockaded territory.

Although the petition secured enough support to be considered for a debate in parliament, the bid was rejected earlier this week because "visiting heads of foreign governments, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have immunity from legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained".

Mr Cameron and his counterpart are expected to focus on Middle Eastern relations during the talks, including the crisis in Syria and developments in Iran.

Britain reopened its embassy in Tehran last month, four years after shutting it down when a mob rampaged through the compound smashing windows, torching cars and burning Union flags.

Earlier this year Iran struck a deal after a decade of negotiations with world powers over its nuclear programme, with some sanctions being lifted in return for allowing inspections.

But Mr Netanyahu remains bitterly opposed to the accord and is reportedly lobbying the US Congress to block the deal.

Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, which represents more than 30 Jewish organisations, said: "The Jewish Leadership Council proudly welcomes Prime Minister Netanyahu to the United Kingdom. His visit is particularly significant as our community enjoys great freedom and security in the United Kingdom and our deep and close relationship with the State of Israel plays an ever more important role in our culture and identity.

"It is for that reason that we are delighted to join members of our community in Whitehall to show solidarity with Prime Minister Netanyahu during his visit.

"I truly hope that Britain will continue to be at the forefront of protecting Israel, enforcing the provisions of the Iran agreement if it is ratified and standing against Iran's dangerous destabilising policies in the Middle East.

"The success of the trade and cultural ties the United Kingdom and Israel enjoy are well known and I hope that the political link continues to emulate them."