Arab League chief condemns PM’s pledge to not evacuate settlements
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Arab League chief condemns PM’s pledge to not evacuate settlements

Ahmed Abul Gheit questions Netanyahu's commitment to peace process after PM vowed never to uproot another West Bank community

Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit attends the Arab Foreign Minister's meeting in Cairo to discuss the simmering unrest in Jerusalem on July 27, 2017.  (AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)
Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit attends the Arab Foreign Minister's meeting in Cairo to discuss the simmering unrest in Jerusalem on July 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

CAIRO — Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit on Tuesday “strongly denounced” remarks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruling out any further evacuation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“Abul Gheit considers this stance, which is utterly rejected, as something that cannot come from a person who seeks peace,” a statement from Gheit said.

At an event Monday celebrating 50 years of Israeli settlements in Samaria — the biblical name for the northern West Bank — Netanyahu told a crowd of thousands, “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”

“This is the inheritance of our ancestors,” he said. “This is our land.’

He also stressed the dangers Israel would face if it withdrew from the West Bank, a key demand of the Palestinians in any future peace deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (r) with settler leader Yossi Dagan at event commemorating 50 years of settlement in the West Bank, August 28, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (r) with settler leader Yossi Dagan at event commemorating 50 years of settlement in the West Bank, August 28, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Despite settlements being one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the White House said Tuesday Netanyahu’s remarks would not derail efforts to restart the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“It is no secret what each side’s position is on this issue,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. “Our focus is on continuing our conversations with both parties and regional leaders to work towards facilitating a deal that factors in all substantive issues.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, denounced Netanyahu’s remarks and urged the Trump administration to intervene.

“This is an Israeli message to the US administration, which sought through an important tour in the area to do something in order to rescue the peace process,” he told the Associated Press. “We call upon the US administration to deal with these provocations,” which he said impede US peace efforts and are “an attempt to return things to square one.”

Last week, Abbas and Netanyahu separately met with Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell.

After the delegation met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, where Kushner told the prime minister that Trump is “very committed” to help broker a peace deal, Netanyahu responded by saying he believed peace with the Palestinians was “within our reach.”

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