Arab League welcomes UN vote against Israeli settlements

Cairo: The Arab League welcomed in a statement on Saturday a UN Security Council resolution that demands immediate and complete halt of all Israeli settlement activities on occupied Palestinian territories.

League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit congratulated the Palestinian people and government on the “pivotal” resolution that was endorsed by a large majority and after more than 35 years of attempts to issue a similar resolution.

“The resolution reflects massive international support for the historical struggle of the Palestinian people to get their legitimate rights, atop of which is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” said the AL chief in the statement.

The resolution was endorsed on Friday by 14 out of the council’s 15 member states, while the US, Israel’s biggest ally, abstained but did not veto despite attempts of US President-elect Donald Trump.

Egypt tried to delay the whole vote on the resolution, which was seen as response to pressure from Trump, yet the Egyptian foreign ministry later explained that the requested delay was only meant to avoid the exercise of veto right against the resolution.

Aboul-Gheit expected the resolution to build momentum that would pressure Israel to abide by its content as well as other relevant international resolutions.

Earlier in December, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, initially approved a couple of controversial pro-settlement bills that are meant to retroactively legalise about 4,000 settlement homes as well as unauthorised Israeli outposts and to allow expropriation of more Palestinian lands in the West Bank.

Over 400,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the West Bank and at least 200,000 others live in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as the capital city of their future state.

Israel has always been blamed by the international community for the deadlock of the Middle East peace process due to its settlement expansion policy that was rejected even by its closest ally, the US.

France has been preparing for an international peace conference to be held in Paris, which was delayed from December to January, in an attempt to revive the stagnant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, yet the bid has officially been rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Aboul-Gheit said that the conference could serve as an important step toward reaching a comprehensive and just solution for the Palestinian issue.