Before boycotting Manama, remember Madrid

There is clearly a problem called the Palestinian Authority.
Sunday 23/06/2019
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 31. (Reuters)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 31. (Reuters)

Whatever the nature of the “Deal of the Century,” prepared by the Donald Trump administration, is, the Palestinian Authority’s choice to boycott the Bahrain economic conference is difficult to comprehend.

Boycotting a deal, the details of which have not been announced and which may never see the light of day, illustrates the Palestinians’ inability to make any decision apart from opting to escape from reality into isolation.

There is clearly a problem called the Palestinian Authority (PA). This authority wants to take the Palestinians back to the days when the main characteristic was wasting opportunities and giving Israel the chance to benefit from the vacuum left.

Saying this in no way means the “Deal of the Century” represents an opportunity for the Palestinians to fulfill their dream of an independent state. On the contrary, this “Deal of the Century,” judging by what has been leaked about its broad outlines, seems to be an attempt to replace the political solution, essentially the two-state solution, with an economic solution.

The Bahrain conference is an “economic workshop” that the Palestinians cannot afford to miss if they intend to know what is being cooked for them. By boycotting it, they remove themselves from a game that concerns them first and foremost.

They could not understand, for example, why Jordan decided to participate in the Bahrain conference, despite Amman’s objection to all that the “Deal of the Century” represents. The Jordanians have the acumen and the strategic vision not to miss out on what is going on in the region that requires their participation in the Bahrain conference.

By attending the conference, Jordan will know what is going on behind the scenes and will be able to know how to defend its national interests.

The Palestinian decision to boycott the Bahrain conference reflects the bankruptcy of the PA at every level. It represents the choice of surrendering to events instead of interacting with them and striving to seek gaps that could provide breakthroughs in the direction of a future political solution.

What cannot be understood from any angle is how the PA can sever relations with the US administration, despite all the shortcomings of this administration and all it has done to serve the interests of Israel.

It is no secret that the US administration has shelved the two-state solution. It has ignored Israeli encroachments on the West Bank, moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem after recognising the holy city as the capital of Israel and closed the Palestine Liberation Organisation office in Washington.

There is no doubt the Trump administration is serving the interests of the Israeli extreme right, which is in control of decision-making in Israel.

This is the beginning of the implementation of the “Deal of the Century” with all the ambiguity surrounding it. The statements of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman that Israel can be allowed to occupy parts of the West Bank are more proof of the complicity between the Trump administration and the Israeli right, regardless of whether Binyamin Netanyahu remains prime minister after the next elections.

Surely, the Palestinians are in a most unfavourable position but they should not let their predicament push them to desperate decisions, such as boycotting the US administration or the Bahrain conference, because the beneficiary of such a move will be Israel or a movement such as Hamas, whose only concern is to destroy the Palestinian national project and serve Israel.

Since the militarisation of the intifada, there was a multiplication of Palestinian mistakes leading to the isolation of the PA. Perhaps the first expression of that isolation was that most Arab countries, including the Gulf states, plan to attend the Bahrain conference.

The PA should become convinced that going to Manama does not necessarily mean recognising the “Deal of the Century.” Listening to what is said at the conference and participating in the economic workshop would help it understand what is going on in this world instead of staying on the sidelines.

There is a question that arises: What would have happened had the Palestinians not participated in the Madrid peace conference in 1991? The Palestinians went to Madrid in a joint delegation with Jordan. Over time, the Palestinians, who had paid the price of standing by Saddam Hussein during his invasion of Kuwait, have gone from one breakthrough to the next until the signing of the Oslo Accords. This agreement was Arafat’s ticket to the White House and allowed him to return to the land of Palestine.

Before deciding to boycott the Manama conference, it is necessary for the Palestinians to remember the Madrid conference where there was no Palestinian flag.

In addition to recalling the Madrid conference and the regional and international circumstances surrounding it, it is necessary to think about what is going on in the region. Most Arab countries consider the Iranian threat as the most imminent one they face. It is Iran that is being aggressive towards Saudi Arabia and it is the Trump administration that is seeking to bring Iran down to its true size.

The Palestinian cause is no longer a priority for the Arabs. This cause has become a mere tool in Iran’s hands and in the hands of its Arab agents for its biddings against the Arabs. The only goal of Iran’s biddings is to embarrass the Arabs. So, are the Palestinians aware of this reality or do they want to bypass it because they live in a world of their own?

It is certain that the Palestinian cause can only end with a political solution linked to an economic programme. It is the cause of a people who exist on the map of the region and that no one can wipe out their national identity, no matter how long it would take and how powerful Israel might be and no matter how monstrous American unfairness can be.

However, the current circumstances impose necessities brought about by the Iranian threat. These circumstances require the Palestinian side to be realistic, instead of applying the theory that the Palestinians are only good at shooting themselves in the foot because of their ignorance of the regional and international balances.