Will Israel attend Mideast workshop in Bahrain?
LONDON - A White House official said that Israeli representatives have not been invited to the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Bahrain next week. However, an Israeli official said that his country will attend the conference.
The US official said Monday that the meeting is to focus on the administration’s “economic vision” for the Palestinians and will not focus on “political issues.” The Trump administration official was not authorised to discuss the matter on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The announcement means that neither Israelis nor Palestinians will be attending a conference meant to shape their fate.
The Palestinians, accusing the US of bias favoring Israel, have rejected the Trump administration’s peace plan out of hand and have urged Arab countries to boycott the meeting.
Israel says to attend conference
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that Israel will attend the upcoming conference in Bahrain.
“Israel will be represented at the Bahrain economic workshop in a way that will be decided later on,” Katz wrote on Twitter late Sunday. “Israel has the ability to contribute to the development of the region with technology, innovation and other ways,” he added.
Asked by AFP to elaborate, a foreign ministry official did not say whether Israel would be represented by government officials or business leaders.
The June 25 and 26 gathering will see the unveiling of the economic aspects of the US initiative spearheaded by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The idea is to woo the Palestinians with the economic benefits if they accept the United State’s political proposals, which will be detailed at a later date yet to be announced.
Trump’s Middle East envoy hinted Sunday that it would not be before November.
The Palestinians have already rejected the plan, which they believe will be partial to Israel, and they are boycotting the Bahrain workshop.
The White House said last week that Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have agreed to attend, but none of the three countries have yet confirmed their participation.
The United Nations announced it would send its deputy Middle East coordinator to the event.
Relations soured between Washington and the Palestinians after the Trump administration recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017.
Trump is attempting to forge a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, a task at which all who have tried before him have failed.
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the plan may be considered unworkable, in comments to a private meeting of Jewish leaders leaked to US media.
“It may be rejected. Could be in the end, folks will say, ‘It’s not particularly original, it doesn’t particularly work for me’,” The Washington Post reported, citing an audio recording of the meeting it had obtained.
Palestinians mass protests to precede US workshop
Palestinians are calling for mass protests against the regional workshop.
President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party said Saturday that PLO factions have also called a general strike on June 25, when the Mideast conference begins in Bahrain.
The protests in the Palestinian territories are slated a day ahead.
The head of the Arab League warned on Monday that attempts to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict will be in vain without the establishment of a Palestinian state on all territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Arab League head warns no deal without Palestinian state
Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s comments appeared directed at Trump’s “deal of the century”.
“Whatever is rejected by the Palestinian or the Arab side is unacceptable,” Aboul Gheit said during an event at the Arab League.
“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,” he added.
Based in Egypt, the Arab League is often seen as a talking shop rendered ineffective by regional rivalries, but it remains the main forum for Arab opinion on international matters.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt are its most influential members.
Aboul Gheit said that Israel’s acceptance of an Arab Peace Initiative drawn up by Saudi Arabia in 2002, which offers Israel normal ties in return for withdrawal from territory captured in 1967, was the only acceptable solution for Arab states.
“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,” he said.
UN Palestinian agency calls on donors to help fill deficit
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Monday urged its donors to help fill an expected $211 million shortfall in funding for 2019 after the US withdrew its support last year.
“The overall shortfall for this year was estimated at the beginning of the year (at) around $211 million,” commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl told a news conference in Jordan.
The US, which was previously UNRWA’s largest contributor, last year cut a full $300 million in funding to the agency and last month called for the organisation to be dismantled.
Founded in 1949, UNRWA provides education and health services to some five million Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.
More than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.
They and all their descendants are deemed by the UN agency to be refugees who fall under its remit.
“This year we need $1.2 billion that covers all our services,” said Krahenbuhl, adding the agency had kept all services running so far this year but began to run up against deficits this month.
UNRWA was able to fully fund a budget of the same amount in 2018 through budget cuts and new donor contributions.
“The problems that we faced last year have not ended, the US is not reengaging with UNRWA, in fact it has reduced its contribution by further $60 million so we have now lost the entire US funding,” he said.
He said he hoped a pledge conference in New York next week would help “mobilise additional funding”.
(AW and agencies)