Arab League: Referendum Law Proves Israel's Aggressive Nature

Deputy Arab League chief accuses Israel of placing 'one obstacle after another' to halt efforts to renew Mideast peace process.

The Arab League on Wednesday condemned Israel's new law requiring a referendum on land concession as "illustrating the aggressive character" of the Israeli government and its "disregard for international law."

Israel "continues to place obstacle after obstacle to harm efforts to renew the peace process," Deputy Arab League chief Ahmed Hali said.

Arab League meeting in Cairo

Every step Israel takes in that direction amplifies the tension and instability in the Middle East, added Hali. He called on the global community to intervene and force Israel to abide by international law.

The Arab League issued its response to the new law a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned that the move "puts obstacles in the way of the political process."

"The Israelis want to tell the whole world that they will not withdraw from Jerusalem or the Golan," Abbas told reporters on Tuesday at the opening of the new headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Ramallah.

The Knesset on Monday approved that law, which stipulates a two-thirds parliamentary majority to cede land in east Jerusalem to the Palestinians or in the Golan Heights to Syria. Failing that, either withdrawal would become subject to a referendum.

While noting that he did not object to Israel putting the final peace deal to a referendum, Abbas said a referendum "on this part or that" meant "obstructions on the way to peace."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told a news conference that the Israeli parliament vote "is a violation of international law," which considers Jerusalem and the Golan Heights occupied territories.

The two Arab leaders were not the only ones to criticize the bill; Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it would likely be used by Israel's enemies as proof that it is averse to advancing the Middle East peace process.

"A Palestinian state is in Israel's clear interest," Barak said. "This [law] won't do anybody any good. We must get pass the obstacle of settlement freeze, because is a weak point for Israel that cannot be explained to the world."

Syria also condemned the bill, saying it was further proof that the Israeli government was not interested in peace.

A Syrian Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday the bill makes a mockery of international laws and UN Security Council resolutions.

Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and wants it all back as the price for peace.