Arab leaders warn of turmoil over Israeli actions in Jerusalem and West Bank

Leaders of Palestine, Egypt and Jordan address high-level meeting of Arab League in Cairo

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, centre, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Jordan's King Abdullah II, left, after the Arab League meeting in Cairo. Reuters
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Leaders and senior officials of Arab League states on Sunday condemned Israel’s “unilateral” actions in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Speaking at the organisation's headquarters in Cairo, they said Israeli expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and demolition of Palestinian homes could have consequences that affect the entire region.

The meeting was convened following a rise in Israeli-Palestinian violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the past year, with at least 45 Palestinians 10 Israelis killed this year.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attended the meeting along with foreign ministers and senior officials from other member states.

They renewed their support for Jordan’s traditional role as custodian of Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site that is built on a hilltop in Jerusalem’s Old City that is also the most sacred site for Jews, and for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, right, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, at the Arab League meeting in Cairo on February 12, 2023. AP Photo

Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war. It claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state comprising the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Mr Abbas said his West Bank-based administration would resort to the United Nations and its agencies and demand a resolution to protect the two-state solution to the conflict with Israel.

“The State of Palestine will continue going to international courts and organisations to protect our people’s legitimate rights,” he said.

Israeli border police forces gather on a rooftop near the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock mosques in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, on February 12, 2023.  AFP

On Jerusalem, King Abdullah said that “any attempt to interfere with its historical and legal status will have negative consequences for the region’s security and stability”.

“The region cannot live in peace, stability, and prosperity without any progress made on the Palestinian cause,” he said.

Mr El Sisi’s remarks echoed the king’s sentiments.

The Egyptian leader, whose country became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, warned Israel against “any attempt to impose a de facto situation [in Jerusalem] that will negatively impact on the final settlement negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides”.

He called on the international community to “reinforce the two-state solution and create conducive conditions for the resumption of the peace process”.

Addressing Israel directly, he said: “It’s time to enshrine the culture of peace and co-existence. In fact, it’s time for the integration of the region’s peoples.”

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Israeli attempts to erase the Arab and Islamic identity in East Jerusalem “would fuel endless unrest and violence”.

Updated: February 12, 2023, 5:23 PM