Palestinians to shun US-led economic conference, say they weren't consulted

Reuters , AFP , Monday 20 May 2019

The Palestinians will not attend a US-led conference in Bahrain next month that the Trump administration has cast as a preliminary roll-out of its plan for them to make peace with Israel, a Palestinian cabinet minister said on Monday.

Washington announced the conference on Sunday, describing it as an opportunity to drum up international investment for the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

The Palestinians, who have boycotted the Trump administration since it recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in late 2017, have shown little interest in discussing a plan that they anticipate will fall far short of their core demands.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday that his government had not been consulted on the June 25-26 gathering in Manama.

After the cabinet met, Ahhmed Majdalani, the social development minister and a member of the executive committee of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, said: "There will be no Palestinian particaption in the Manama workshop."

He added: "Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel."

"We were not consulted by any party on the announced meeting to take place in Manama, Bahrain," Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement.

"We have not mandated any party to negotiate on our behalf."

US officials have predicted that the event will include representatives and business executives from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as some finance ministers.

The economic component discussed will constitute an unveiling of the first part of the Trump peace plan, US officials have said.

Washington has yet to commit to an exact timetable on political aspects of the plan.

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is the chief architect of the proposals.

Israeli leaders have not commented on the conference. Israel's finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, said through a spokesman on Sunday that he had yet to receive any invitation.

Sunday's joint statement from the US and Bahrain called the event a "pivotal opportunity... to share ideas, discuss strategies and galvanise support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement".

The Palestinians see this as offering financial rewards in exchange for accepting ongoing Israeli occupation.

"Attempts at promoting an economic normalisation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine will be rejected," Erekat said.

"This is not about improving living conditions under occupation but about reaching Palestine's full potential by ending the Israeli occupation."

Shtayyeh reiterated Palestinians' demands for a two-state peace deal with Israel entailing control of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as East Jerusalem as their future capital. Israel calls Jerusalem its indivisible capital and has said it might declare sovereignty in its West Bank settlements.

The Trump administration has said its still-secret peace plan would require compromise by both sides.

Since being shunned by the Palestinians, it has cut back on US aid for them, contributing to economic hardship in the West Bank and Gaza.

"The financial crisis the Palestinian Authority is living through today is a result of the financial war that is being launched against us in order to win political concessions," Shtayyeh told his cabinet. "We do not submit to blackmail and we don't trade our political rights for money."

Bashar al-Masri, one of the most prominent Palestinian businessmen who worked with international investors and Israel to build the new $1.4-billion Palestinian city of Rawabi, announced he had rejected an invitation to the conference.

"The idea of economic peace is an old one which is now packaged in a different way. As our people have rejected it previously, we reject it now," he said on his Facebook page.

"We will not work with any event outside the Palestinian national consensus."

Hamas, shunned in the West for its diehard hostility to Israel and locked in a more than decade-old power struggle with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah party, also condemned the Bahrain conference.

"We reject any economic and political steps that aim to implement the deal of the century or to normalise ties with the Israeli enemy," Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum told Reuters.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

Short link: