A picture taken on November 19, 2019, shows a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Elazar, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem south of Jerusalem, in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
The highest authority in Sunni Islam, Al-Azhar, has strongly condemned a US move that effectively supports Israel’s building of settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying the stance is a "blatant assault" on Palestinian rights.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday a shift in decades-long American policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, claiming that they "are not, per se, inconsistent with international law."
The declaration was condemned by Palestinians, Arab governments and the European Union.
Al-Azhar warned of "the serious repercussions of those decisions,” which it considers as "a green light for the Zionist entity to build more settlements and commit further violations and crimes against the occupied Palestinian state."
The decision is "completely inconsistent with the provisions of international laws and the United Nations Charter that acknowledges the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory," Al-Azhar added in a statement on its official website.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel annexed in 1967, have long remained an obstacle to a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Palestinians want Israel to dismantle all its settlements in the West Bank, which they hope will become part of their future Palestinian state.
The Palestinian Authority has called on the Arab League to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the matter, and Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian government, said on Facebook that the cabinet was due to hold a meeting Wednesday to discuss the consequences of the US decision.
The move by the Trump administration is the latest boost to Israel. Washington recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, moved the US embassy to the holy city in 2018, and recognised Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in 1967.