Netanyahu sharply criticizes Arab League boycott decision

JERUSALEM, March 31 (JTA) — An Arab League resolution calling on its members to renew the Arab boycott of Israel has drawn sharp criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu said Monday that the Arab League was “ganging up on Israel” with “these absurd ideas that the boycott will be reinstated.” “Israel has known periods of Israel-bashing more than once and we’ve been able to overcome it,” he told Israel Radio. His comments came after Arab League foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo, adopted a resolution calling on its 22 members to abide by the Arab boycott of Israel in retaliation for the Jewish state’s recent decision to start construction at Har Homa. In recent years, several Arab states have eased the boycott in recognition of Israeli-Palestinian peace moves. The resolution, which will be presented to each of the ministers’ governments, also called on Arab states to stop all normalization of ties with Israel, to close Israeli offices and missions in their countries and to suspend the multilateral talks that deal with regional issues such as water, the environment and security. Foreign Minster David Levy also criticized the Arab League resolution, telling reporters, “the peace process does not tolerate and will not tolerate an atmosphere of violence — not on the ground and not in diplomatic violence.” The United States obliquely criticized the resolution, with a U.S. State Department spokesman, John Dinger, saying that Washington believes that a “regional environment supportive of peace-making is an essential part of promoting peace in the area.” “We hope that the Arab League recognizes that it has a responsibility to shape such an environment,” Dinger told reporters. But at the conclusion of its two-day conference on Monday, the Arab League ministers remained adamant. “Netanyahu is playing with fire, and the first person to be burnt by this will be him,” Esmat Abdel-Meguid, the secretary-general of the Arab League, told a news conference. Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat had appealed to the foreign ministers at the Cairo meeting to form a united front against what he called the “Judaization” of Jerusalem by Israel. Netanyahu, meanwhile, stressed that Israel remained committed to the peace process, but that the Palestinian Authority had to prove it would take real measures to combat violence and terrorist activities. The territories were relatively quiet Monday, after more than 10 days of unrest throughout the West Bank. Israeli troops firing rubber bullets wounded two Palestinians during a confrontation Monday with hundreds of Palestinian stone-throwers in the West Bank town of Jenin. Also Monday, Israeli forces demolished the Hebron-area home of the suicide bomber who carried out the March 21 Tel Aviv attack that killed three Israelis and wounded dozens of others.

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