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Arab League to meet over Israel’s plans to annex parts of West Bank

Extraordinary session in midst of pandemic will bring together foreign ministers via videoconference to discuss political, legal and financial support to Palestinians

This picture taken on February 1, 2020, shows 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, as delegates take their seats (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
This picture taken on February 1, 2020, shows 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, as delegates take their seats (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

The Arab League said Monday it will convene an urgent virtual meeting this week to discuss how to galvanize opposition to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

The extraordinary meeting — scheduled for Thursday at the request of the Palestinian leadership — will bring together Arab foreign ministers via videoconference, rather than a face-to-face meeting, due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Arab League’s deputy secretary Hossam Zaki said the ministers will “discuss in their virtual meeting providing political, legal and financial support to the Palestinian leadership to confront the Israeli plans.”

It comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz signed a deal for a unity government that could accelerate the premier’s plans to begin annexing parts of the West Bank as early as July 1.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a map of the Jordan Valley, vowing to extend Israeli sovereignty there if reelected, during a speech in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Those Israeli plans — while subject to caveats, including agreement and coordination with the US — have drawn wide criticism including from the United Nations and the European Union.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit last week sent a message to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warning against the annexation plans, saying they risk “igniting tension in the region.”

He also accused Israel of “exploiting the world’s preoccupation with the novel coronavirus to impose a new reality on the ground.”

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and has since extended its control by expanding its settlements there.

Last Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a decision regarding the annexation of West Bank territories was up to Israel’s new unity government.

US President Donald Trump, left, listens as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 28, 2020, to announce the Trump administration’s much-anticipated plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Earlier this year, the US unveiled a controversial Middle East peace plan that would allow Israel to maintain control of the contested city of Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and annex all West Bank settlements as well as the Jordan Valley.

Arab states rejected Trump’s plan, saying it favored Israel and failed to grant Palestinians their minimum rights.

The Palestinians as well as the European Union have likewise criticized the plan, saying it effectively closes the door to a two-state solution in the Middle East.

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