Arab League to campaign against settlements

Agreement provides a loophole for the Palestinian Authority, which committed not to lobby world powers during peace talks

Illustrative photo of a Jerusalem construction site. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a Jerusalem construction site. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Aiming to skirt restrictions on Palestinian lobbying efforts in the international arena, Ramallah and the Arab League agreed Sunday to work together to campaign against Israeli settlement expansion and the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.

During a meeting of the league in Cairo on Sunday, Arab foreign ministers decided that in the coming weeks a specially formed committee will review the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The foreign ministers will then lobby governments to pressure Israel to freeze settlement building, according to a report in the Maariv newspaper.

The joint effort by the Arab League and the PA is designed to circumvent a commitment by the Palestinians to refrain from lobbying the international community against Israel’s settlement activity during the nine-month period allotted for the current round of peace talks.

The committee is to look at “crimes that Israel is carrying out in the West Bank by taking control of Palestinian lands and al-Aqsa (the Temple Mount),” Maariv reported on Monday.

“The efforts by Israel to Judaize the al-Aqsa mosque and call it by the name Temple Mount are dangerous,” said Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki at the league meeting.

Maliki also condemned Israel’s recent decision to build thousands of housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and protested Israeli plans to upgrade the security fence along its border with Jordan.

The Housing and Construction Ministry announced Sunday morning that it had approved the sale of land for some 1,700 homes over the Green Line, including some 700 new units in Jerusalem and 1,030 in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The declaration came on the heels of a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the day that Israel must keep a “security border” in the Jordan Valley in any final peace deal with the Palestinians. The ministry granted approval to 387 housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo and another 311 in the capital’s Gilo neighborhood. Both areas lie over the Green Line.

Last week, reports that Israel approved 5,000 new housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank, were said to have infuriated Palestinian negotiators, prompting rumors of the resignation of the negotiating team. The resignations could not be independently confirmed by The Times of Israel and were not reported in official Palestinian media. PA sources said they knew nothing of the resignations.

That news came on the heels of the Israeli release of 26 Palestinian prisoners last Tuesday as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority to release a total of 104 prisoners who committed their crimes before the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords were signed. Tuesday’s release was the second of four, with the first batch being freed in August.

Under heavy US pressure, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed in July after five years amid deep skepticism and low expectations from both sides. The negotiations are taking place in secrecy and neither side has given details on their content.

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