Palestinians unanimous in objections to Bahrain conference

The Palestinian business community said the West Bank’s economy is restricted by the Israeli occupation and the Bahrain conference does not address that.
Sunday 23/06/2019
United in opposition. Palestinians demonstrate on June 20 against the US-led Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Bahrain. (AFP)
United in opposition. Palestinians demonstrate on June 20 against the US-led Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Bahrain. (AFP)

LONDON - Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas were unanimous in rejecting a US-sponsored Middle East economic conference in Bahrain. The view of the two groups, which are often bitterly divided, was shared by much of the Palestinian business community.

“If anybody wants to solve the Palestinian problem, they have to solve it through ending occupation (and) the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told Reuters.

“If there are people who want to support the Palestinian people, they should lift the financial siege that has been imposed on the Palestinian people.”

Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Gaza-based Hamas movement, said the conference would amount to Arab “normalisation” of ties with Israel.

“We clearly express our rejection and non-acceptance of any Arab or Islamic country having such a conference, which constitutes normalisation with the (Israeli) occupation,” Haniyeh said. “We reject the Manama conference and the transformation of the Palestinian cause from a political cause to an economic cause.”

Haniyeh appealed to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to not host the workshop, vowing protests “in all the Palestinian lands and beyond.”

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco have indicated they would attend the conference June 25-26 in Manama.

Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian government, on June 19 said Palestinian Authority urged Egypt and Jordan not to attend the Bahrain conference.”

Melhem asked “all brotherly and friendly countries to withdraw” because participation “would carry wrong messages about the unity of the Arab position” on rejecting the Middle East peace plan by US President Donald Trump, also called the “Deal of the Century.”

The Israeli government was not invited, a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. Israeli businessmen, however, are likely to be taking part.

“We’re inviting the Israeli businesspeople and Palestinian businesspeople. We’d like to make it as apolitical as possible,” a US official said.

The Palestinian business community said the West Bank’s economy is restricted by the Israeli occupation and the Bahrain conference does not address that. The solution to the Palestinians’ economic woes, they argue, is political.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the conference as “an attempt by the United States to bring a better future and solve the problems of the region.”

“An important conference will soon be held in Bahrain and Israelis will, of course, participate,” Netanyahu said.

Azzam Shawwa, governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority, the Palestinian equivalent of a central bank, said Palestinian finances were on the brink of ruin after the suspension of US aid. Shawwa said Arab countries had not fully honoured their donor pledges.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit reiterated the league’s rejection of any plan not approved by the Palestinians.

“Whatever is rejected by the Palestinian or the Arab side is unacceptable,” said Aboul Gheit. “What is acceptable from our side as Arabs as a solution is the establishment of a Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967, borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.

“If (Israel) chooses the only reasonable and accepted way from our side as Arabs, which is the establishment of a Palestinian state… it will be accepted in the region as a normal regional partner.”

Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, hinted that unveiling the White House peace plan will be further delayed.

“I think the logic would still dictate that if we wanted to wait until a new (Israeli) government is formed, we really do have to wait until potentially as late as November 6,” Greenblatt told the Jerusalem Post. “It’s no secret that the Israeli elections have certainly put a new thought into our head.”

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