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Arab League says Israel showing ‘contempt’ with settlement plans

Ahmed Aboul Gheit accuses Jerusalem of ‘causing all efforts to implement the two-state solution to fail’ after approval of 2,500 new homes in West Bank

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, listens to UN envoy for Libya Martin Kobler, during their meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, listens to UN envoy for Libya Martin Kobler, during their meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

The Arab League on Wednesday condemned Israel’s announcement of thousands of new settlement homes the day before as a sign of “contempt” for the international community and an obstacle to peace.

Israel on Tuesday approved 2,500 new homes in the West Bank in a major expansion of settlement construction following the election of US President Donald Trump.

The settlements are seen as illegal under international law and critics label them as a major stumbling block to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians want for their own state.

Tuesday’s announcement “confirms the Israeli government’s approach, which is full of contempt and defiance for the will of the international (community),” the head of the Cairo-based Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said in a statement.

In this Thursday, October 28, 2010 file photo, then Egyptian foreign minister and current Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks during a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)
In this Thursday, October 28, 2010 file photo, then Egyptian foreign minister and current Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks during a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

The statement accused Israel of “causing all efforts to implement the two-state solution to fail.” It also suggested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government feels “strengthened” by “recent international developments,” in an apparent reference to Trump taking the reins at the White House.

The move has already drawn widespread international criticism. The Palestinians quickly condemned the announcement, calling it “land theft and colonialism.”

“Such a deliberate escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise constitutes a war crime and the flagrant violation of international law and conventions, in particular UN Security Council resolution 2334,” said PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, referring to an anti-settlements UN decision passed last month.

The European Union also responded critically, branding the announcement a “regrettable” move that would further undermine prospects of negotiating regional peace agreement.

This file photo taken on December 28, 2016 shows a partial view of the West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev northwest of Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
This file photo taken on December 28, 2016 shows a partial view of the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev northwest of Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

The United Nations echoed the EU in denouncing Israeli initiatives to accelerate settlement construction in Palestinian-claimed territory, stressing that “unilateral actions” are an obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution.

However, in a stark departure from previous US rhetoric, the US did not condemn Tuesday’s announcement, with White House press secretary Sean Spicer saying during Tuesday’s daily press briefing that “we’re going to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and we’ll continue to discuss that.”

Trump has signaled strong support for Israel, and Israeli right-wing politicians have sought to take advantage of this, with hardliners calling for an end to the idea of a Palestinian state.

“Israel continues to be a huge ally of the United States, [Trump] wants to grow closer with Israel, to make sure that it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East,” Spicer said.

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