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Arab League chief hopes Biden reverses Trump policies, revives 2-state solution

In briefing to UN Security Council on Mideast, Ahmed Aboul Gheit says outgoing US president emboldened Israel to take ‘dangerous and destructive steps’

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks during an Arab League emergency meeting discussing the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, at the league headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on February 1, 2020. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks during an Arab League emergency meeting discussing the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, at the league headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on February 1, 2020. (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

The head of the Arab League expressed hope Monday that the incoming Biden administration will depart from the policies of US President Donald Trump and launch a political process supported by regional and international parties to achieve independence for the Palestinians.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the 22-member organization, told the UN Security Council that a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict “has been marginalized by the main mediator in the peace process,” a reference to the United States.

“This encouraged the Israeli government to intensify its settlement activities and to threaten to take dangerous and destructive steps such as annexing occupied land,” he claimed.

The Arab League chief addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a wide-ranging briefing on the crises and conflicts in the Middle East.

He spoke a day after Israeli authorities advanced plans to build nearly 800 homes in West Bank settlements, in a last-minute surge of approvals before Trump leaves office Wednesday and Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. Palestinian leaders denounced the Israeli action.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, as part of a future independent state. They say the growing settler population, approaching some 500,000 people, makes it increasingly difficult to achieve their dream of independence. Israel says it is disputed territory, the Biblical Judea and Samaria, captured in a defensive war from Jordan, which itself seized the West Bank in 1948.

Aboul Gheit said that “significant efforts” need to be made by all parties in the coming months to reaffirm the two-state solution.

New apartments buildings under construction in the Beit El settlement in the West Bank with the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the background, October 13, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

“We look forward to the new American administration rectifying policies and processes that are not useful and engage in a fruitful political process with the support of influential regional and international parties,” he said. “This would give the Palestinian people renewed hope that the international community would stand by its side in its noble aspiration to achieve freedom and independence.”

Aboul Gheit also referred without name to Iran, saying that “some regional powers are interfering in the affairs of the Arab region” by adversely affecting “the security of international maritime navigation routes which are a lifeline for international trade,” a reference to freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf.

“It has also become apparent that this interference perpetuates existing conflicts and further complicates them,” he said, without directly citing Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, for Yemen’s Houthi Shiite rebels and for the Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip and openly seeks Israel’s destruction.

Aboul Gheit said the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflicts and crises have created “a dangerous mix that has taken a heavy toll on the peoples of the region,” pointing to 10 years of civil war in Syria, Yemen’s war entering its seventh year and “entrenched divisions in Libya.”

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