(24 June 2019)
U.S. President Donald Trump and his son in-law/adviser Jared Kushner are preparing to unveil their so-called “deal of the century” at the Bahrain Summit this week.
Arab politicians and commentators greeted U.S. President Donald Trump’s $50 billion Middle East economic vision with a mixture of derision and exasperation, although some in the Gulf called for it to be given a chance.
Despite the U.S.’ optimism, several Arab leaders and states have expressed their apprehension and disapproval of this plan.
The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the Bahrain meeting, saying only a political solution will solve the problem. It said Kushner’s “abstract promises” were an attempt to bribe Palestinians into accepting Israeli occupation.
“We don’t need the Bahrain meeting to build our country, we need peace, and the sequence of (the plan) – economic revival followed by peace is unrealistic and an illusion,” Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara said on Sunday.
Joining the Palestinian Authority in rejection of Trump’s plan is Hamas, who was not invited to the Bahrain Summit.
Egyptian liberal and leftist parties slammed the conference as an attempt to “consecrate and legitimize” occupation of Arab land and said in a joint statement that any Arab participation would be “beyond the limits of normalization” with Israel.
While the precise outline of the political plan has been shrouded in secrecy, officials briefed on it say Kushner has jettisoned the two-state solution – the long-standing worldwide formula that envisages an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
In Israel, Tzachi Hanegbi, a Cabinet member close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, described Palestinians’ rejection of the “peace to prosperity” plan as tragic.
On Israel Radio, Hanegbi said Washington had tried to create “a little more trust and positivity” by presenting an economic vision but had touched a raw nerve for Palestinians.
“They are still convinced that the whole matter of an economic peace is a conspiracy, aimed only at plying them with funds for projects and other goodies only so they will forget their nationalist aspirations. This is of course just paranoia, but it’s another tragedy for the Palestinians,” he said.
U.S.-allied Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, will take part in the Bahrain gathering along with officials from Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel Jubeir, said anything that improves the Palestinians’ situation should be welcomed but that addressing the political process in resolving the conflict with Israel was “extremely important”.
“The Palestinians are the ones who have the ultimate decision in this, because it’s their issue and so whatever the Palestinians accept, I believe everybody else will accept,” he said on Sunday in an interview with broadcaster France 24.
Exit Lebanon and Iraq
Both Lebanon and Iraq have announced that they will be boycotting the upcoming conference in solidarity with Palestine.
“Those who think that waving billions of dollars can lure Lebanon, which is under the weight of a suffocating economic crisis, into succumbing or bartering over its principles are mistaken,” the Lebanese parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, said.
Hezbollah has also condemned the Bahrain Summit, calling Trump’s plan a “historical mistake”.
The withdrawal of Lebanon and Iraq is a big blow to the Trump plan, as the former is neighboring state and the latter is one of their closest allies in the Middle East.
Palestinians wants boycott
Meanwhile, Palestinians urged Egypt and Jordan not to attend the United States-led conference in Bahrain that will run June 25-26. According to Palestinian leaders Egypt and Jordan’s presence at the two-day meeting will weaken Arab opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.”
Egypt and Jordan’s participation is considered especially important since historically they have been key players in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and are also the only Arab states to have reached peace agreements with Israel.
According to Tareq Baconi, an analyst with the International Crisis Group based in Jerusalem, Egypt and Jordan are facing tremendous pressure to attend the conference.
“This is a significant disappointment for the Palestinians because it is a breaking of the ranks in the Arab region. Their call to boycott has not been heeded,” Baconi told Reuters.
A draft of the ‘deal’ outlines a two-state solution that includes the creation of a “New Palestine” that will not be allowed an army, will share Jerusalem as its capital with Israel, and all illegal settlements in the West Bank will become a part of Israel.
Palestinians would be left with a smaller share of the West Bank and some areas on the outskirts of Jerusalem with no control over border migration. Western and Arab sources confirmed the outline of the plan.