By Arab News
By Afnan Nassr
Arab League foreign ministers on Monday denounced the announcement by the US that it no longer considers Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank to be a violation of international law.
During an emergency meeting in Cairo, a week after the announcement by the Trump administration, League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit described the decision as “unfairly biased and unacceptable.” He added that the US had forfeited its role as a neutral arbiter between Israel and the Palestinians.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan reaffirmed the Kingdom’s rejection of the US position, and stressed the need to find a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue. Solving this is the cornerstone of achieving lasting peace, he added.
The Palestinian issue is at the heart of King Salman, the minister pointed out, adding that Saudi Arabia would continue to support the Palestinian cause.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the League’s foreign ministers expressed their “condemnation and rejection of the US decision.” It “has no legal effect and is a clear violation of UN resolutions,” they added.
Aboul Gheit said that all Arab states should hold extensive discussions with Washington in an attempt to persuade the US administration to reconsider its decision.
He pointed out that the announcement shows a blatant disregard for the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying force from moving parts of its civilian population to the lands under occupation. Therefore, he added, it damages Washington’s moral legitimacy and its credibility as a power that respects and enforces international law.
The overwhelming international consensus about the illegal nature of the settlements, Aboul Gheit said, means that the US announcement is no more than an individual opinion that follows the principle that power creates its own justice. This is a dangerous, widely rejected idea that calls into question the values of anyone who adopts or defends such a principle, he added
On Nov. 18, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem illegal. He said that after legal consultation, Washington had concluded the establishment of settlements was “not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
This reversal of decades of US policy came nearly two years after President Donald Trump overturned another long-standing US policy by recognizing the contested holy city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompting anger from Palestinians and Arabs.
After Pompeo’s announcement, the Arab League described the US shift as “an extremely adverse development.” Saudi cabinet ministers responded to the decision last week by calling on the international community to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people and confront Israel for its violations of international laws.
The UN human rights office has said the Israeli settlements remain in breach of international law, echoing a position taken by the International Court of Justice in an advisory opinion in 2004.
Palestinians say the settlements jeopardize their goal of the establishment of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.