Arab League slams US shift on settlements as ‘biased, unacceptable’
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Arab League slams US shift on settlements as ‘biased, unacceptable’

After emergency meeting of 22-member state forum, Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit says US has forfeited role as neutral arbiter between Israel and the Palestinians

Illustrative: An extraordinary session of the Arab League foreign ministers meets to discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, April 21, 2019. (Amr Nabil/AP)
Illustrative: An extraordinary session of the Arab League foreign ministers meets to discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, April 21, 2019. (Amr Nabil/AP)

CAIRO — Arab League foreign ministers denounced the Trump administration’s announcement that it no longer considers Israeli settlements to be a violation of international law.

In an emergency meeting convened Monday, a week after the US announcement, Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit called the decision “unfairly biased and unacceptable.” He said the US has forfeited its role as a neutral arbiter between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinians planned to hold demonstrations across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to protest US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration on November 18 that the administration does not view the settlements as illegal.

Pompeo on Monday tweeted that Arab states should “abandon boycotts and engage #Israel.”

The US policy change, which sparked international condemnation, was the latest in a series of moves by the White House in which it sided with Israel’s right-wing government against the Palestinians on key issues in the decades-old conflict.

Illustrative: Ahmed About Gheit, Secretary General, The League of Arab States, speaks during the fourth EU-Arab World Summit in Athens, October 29, 2019. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Those moves included a decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the transfer of the US embassy to that city, and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. The moves have been widely, though not universally, welcomed in Israel.

Like the Palestinians, most of the international community considers settlements to be illegal. That stance is based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory.

Israel, however, maintains that the West Bank is not an occupied territory but rather disputed land that was captured from Jordan in a defensive war in 1967.

While publicly declaring support for the Palestinians, some Arab states like Saudi Arabia have quietly forged closer ties with Israel based on a shared rivalry with Iran.

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