Arab leaders show unity against Trump's Israel policy

They would support a proposal to declare that the US move violated the UN charter against acquiring land by force

Arab heads of state, long divided by regional rivalries, showcased unity against Trump's decision to recognise Israel’s annexation of Arab lands captured in 1967 as they gathered today for Arab League's annual summit. The Tunis summit was also the first time the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar attend the same gathering since 2017 when Riyadh and its allies imposed a political and economic boycott on Doha.Yet, the Arab leaders remained divided on many other issues, including whether to readmit founding member Syria.

This year's summit, held in Tunisia's capital, comes against a backdrop of ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen, rival authorities in Libya, Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry and a lingering boycott of Qatar by four fellow League members. Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir even skipped the meeting as they contend with mass protests against their long reigns.

Despite the many discords between the members of the Arab League, however, one of the few things that seems to still unite them even after 50 years is the rejection of Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights as well as east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories seized in the 1967 war that the Palestinians want for their future state. In that regard, representatives from the 22-member league - minus Syria - announced they would jointly condemn President Donald Trump's recognition of Israeli control over the Golan Heights and Trump's decision last year to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. According to Arab League spokesman Mahmoud Afifi, the bloc will issue a proclamation affirming the international consensus that the Golan is occupied Syrian land. The decision comes after Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Saturday that Arab ministers had voiced support in a preparatory meeting for a declaration that Trump's Golan move violates the UN Charter, which prohibits acquiring territories by force. Yet, it is unlikely that the leaders will take any further action on the issue.

That's in part because regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have cultivated too close ties with the Trump administration, viewing it as a key ally against their main rival, Iran. In addition, both are under pressure over their devastating three-year war with Yemen's Houthi rebels, and Riyadh is still grappling with the fallout from the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents last year.

Meanwhile, the Arab League is also expected to consider in Tunis the readmitting Syria, a founding member that was expelled because of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad. Officials speaking ahead of the meeting, however, said it was unlikely Syria would be welcomed back anytime soon.

The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus last year, and other Arab states have also reopened ties with the government of Assad. But Saudi Arabia and Qatar have actively supported the rebels trying to overthrow Assad, and many other states view his government as an Iranian proxy that should continue to be shunned.

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