Alwaght- The US will co-host an economic "workshop" with Bahrain to encourage investment in the occupied Palestinian territories "that could be made possible by a peace agreement", the White House stated on Monday. The conference will be the first step in the so-called “deal of the century” plan sponsored by Trump administration.
The US officials predict that Manama event will feature state and non-governmental representatives, CEOs and investors from European, Middle Eastern, and Asian companies, as well as finance ministers.
A senior diplomat in the White House on Sunday told the press that invitations will be sent to the figures from the US, EU, Asia, and Arab world. Palestinian business leaders will be also invited to the investment gathering.
Manama summit’s theme and goals
As the White House statement reveals the main goal behind this conference is paving the way for implementation of the deal the century. Jared Kushner, Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, earlier said that the US will unveil the plan after the holy month of Ramadan, which will coincide exactly with Manama meeting’s date. The Washington Post earlier wrote that the so-called peace initiative will involve huge economic privileges to the Palestinians but will not include a fully independent Palestinian state. The American diplomats suggested that the upcoming conference will not discuss main sticking points like the border dispute, al-Quds (Jerusalem) status, the fate of the Palestinian refugees, and the Israeli security demands. That is why in the statement the meeting is named an investment workshop featuring finance ministers, CEOs, and business leaders from various countries.
Some of the cases in the deal of the century require massive funding, such as linking the West Bank to the Gaza Strip in a bid to improve the economic conditions for the Palestinian territories, finally settling the Palestinian refugees in various countries, giving some of the Palestinians Israeli citizenship, and providing the Palestinians’ security by the Israeli regime. So, the US holds Manama conference to prepare the ground for the plan implementation.
With regard to Trump’s opportunistic approach to the foreign policy and also his instrumental approach to the wealthy Persian Gulf Arab states, it seems that the Arab monarchies will shoulder the large part of the funding of the project. The US administration, which last year cut funding to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), now seeks to open a funding channel for the Palestinians using the Arab petrodollars. This reality reflects Trump's view of Saudi wealth. Once against, the US eyes to milk the Saudi and other Arab monarchies for its own and Israeli interests.
Speeding up Arab diplomatic normalization with Tel Aviv is another key drive behind the meeting. Israeli media reported that an Israeli delegation, led by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, was invited to the conference, another move towards Arab-Israeli thaw.
Choosing Bahrain as a hosting nations is a well-calculated move, while the host could be Egypt, for example. It is a proven reality that Saudi Arabia uses Bahrain to implement policies it does not want to enter directly. Saudi Arabia repeatedly claimed it rejects the deal of the century at Arab meetings and also in talks with the Palestinian officials, despite behind-the-scenes moves to materialize the White House orders. But Trump insists on (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council members to openly and officially back his initiative and embark on diplomatic normalization with Tel Aviv. So, Manama conference comes in acceptance of Trump demands.
Palestinians’ negative response to invitation: Plan doomed to fail
As it was widely expected, the conference faced strong rejection of all of the Palestinian groups. Hamas movement on Monday issued a statement in reaction, saying that “holding the conference in an Arab state will apparently encourage the United States to further spoil the Palestinian rights.”
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, the Palestinian Authority spokesman in a statement said that the US conference which is the first step in the deal of the century is barren. The PLO member told CNN that "any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel."
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that there has been no consultation on the event with Palestinian officials, adding that the solution to Palestinian crisis is political and the financial improvement stems from a political settlement. He continued that “Palestinians do not think about improving their living conditions under occupation.” He reminded that the current financial crisis in Palestine is a result of an economic war against the Palestinians.
“We do not yield to blackmailing and will not sell our national rights to money,” he went on.
Earlier, Riyad al-Maliki, Palestinian Authority Foreign minister, said “you could not find a Palestinian accepting a peace plan not determining Eastern al-Quds as the Palestinian state’s capital. The Americans are wrong to think that they can make us compromise al-Quds and our lands using financial incentives.”
He added that when an independent Palestinian state is formed, the Palestinians will not need international financial help and can improve their situation using home economic potentials.
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine also commented on the plan, saying that a real peace is unachievable under the Israeli occupation of Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese territories.
In the absence of the Palestinian leaders, the Americans hope to attract to the meeting the Palestinian businessmen and NGOs, though it is not yet clear who is going to represent these communities. But Washington does not seem to have much to maneuver with these communities. Bashar Masri, a Palestinian business leader and CEO of Palestinian construction company Rawabi, said he rejected an invitation to Bahrain conference.
The frustration with the Palestinian representation appears to confuse Trump administration. On Sunday, Kushner in the last push towards attraction of the Palestinians remarked that Palestinian people, along with the regional nations, have the merit and chance for living conditions improvement. He said that it was “disheartening” that the Palestinian leadership has attacked the plan before it has even been unveiled.
Without even a single signal of support from the Palestinian side, it is unclear how Trump wants to realize the deal on the ground. To Trump’s frustration, with Hamas opposition, no compromising plan can proceed in Gaza. Trump’s regional strategy has overtly reached an impasse and his push to realize his initiative before 2020 presidential election will go nowhere.