Palestinians unanimously reject US-Bahrain 'Deal of the Century' summit
The Trump administration will unveil the first phase of its long-awaited blueprint for Middle East peace next month at a conference in the region designed to highlight economic benefits that could be reaped if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved, the White House said on Sunday.
The plan, which has been two years in the making, envisions large-scale investment and infrastructure work in the Palestinian territories but the central political elements remain mostly unknown.
However, the Palestinian leadership said they weren't consulted about the US-led economic conference.
The plan has been formulated by US President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner and will focus on four major components, according to a senior White House official, namely: "infrastructure, industry, empowering and investing in people, and governance reforms". But it will "studiously avoid the many political issues", which will be postponed until further notice.
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Finance Ministers from different governments have been invited to the controversial workshop, including US, Israeli and Arab representatives. However, according to a statement issued by the PLO Executive Committee, Palestinians were not informed, let alone consulted about the upcoming workshop in which their future will be crucially shaped.
PA Prime Minister, Mohammed Ishtayeh, opened Monday's Ministerial Meeting by stating his cabinet's refusal to take part in the Bahrain workshop.
"We were not consulted on said workshop, neither in relation to the inputs, outputs, timing, form or content."
Ishtayeh reiterated his government's rejection of an economic solution to the conflict. He emphasised that: "The economic issue should be the result of a political solution. The Palestinians don't [merely] pursue improving their living conditions under occupation… We don't give in to blackmail or bargain our rights for money."
The resulting outrage from the controversial Bahrain workshop extended beyond the PA leadership to the entirety of the Palestinian people and factions, who unanimously rejected the Trump peace deal.
"The Palestinian people reject economic solutions and initiatives that aim to normalise Israeli-Arab relations at the expense of our political and legal rights," Islamic Jihad leader, Ahmed al-Modallal told The New Arab.
"Arab and Muslim nations should take our side in facing this injustice."
Kaied al-Ghoul, a member of the central committee of the Palestinian Popular Front movement told The New Arab: "The Bahrain workshop is a poisonous trap, aimed to lure Palestinians to be the scapegoat for Israeli-Arab normalisation.
"Palestinians stand united in the face of such cheap temptations to compromise our cause in return for some slightly improved living conditions," al-Ghoul added.
|The Bahrain workshop is a poisonous trap, aimed to lure Palestinians to be the scapegoat for Israeli-Arab normalisation|
"Our cause isn't for sale. We will not bargain our rights in return for economic or humanitarian aid," Hamas leader, Ismael Rudwan told The New Arab.
"The occupation will never gain legitimacy through indulging into this deal."
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Hamas' spokesperson in Qatar, Husam Badran, also stated that the upcoming economic workshop is "fully coordinated with the occupation as an attempt to liquidate the Palestinian cause." Bardan argued that: "Our people are united in their rejection of the deal of the century," and called on the rest of the world to follow the boycott.
Theodosios Hanna, the Archbishop of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, issued a statement, in which he slammed the Bahrain workshop as a "suspicious auction on Palestinian rights".
Hanna called on Bahrain to refuse to host the event and reiterated his rejection of the workshop in particular and the deal of the century in general.
He further emphasised that Palestinians "refuse to be blackmailed and pressured" using their financial needs "to compromise their rights."
"The Palestinian cause is not only a question of improving living conditions, but a struggle against an occupation… There are no other solutions except for ending this occupation and giving our Palestinian people their full rights," Hanna added.
Mahmoud Khalaf, member of the central committee of the Palestinian Democratic Front also spoke to The New Arab
about the summit.
"The deal of the century announcement is merely a red herring. Seventy percent of the deal has already been implemented in the form of the US assault on UNRWA, the defunding of PA, hospitals and peace initiatives, and recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital," Khalaf said.
"What's now left to be done in Bahrain is to transform the conflict from a political to an economic one, in which our rights would be bought and sold," he added.
"Therefore, we reject to indulge into this disingenuous process and its assault on our inalienable rights."
Alternatively, Trump's team invited politically unaffiliated Palestinian businessmen to the workshop to showcase a 'Palestinian presence' at the event and approval of the plan. However, that invitation has also been declined by a number of leading Palestinian entrepreneurs and businessmen.
In a public statement, Bashar al-Masri, founder of the newborn city of Rawabi, who worked closely with the US and Israel over the past years, turned down the US invitation stating that it goes against "the Palestinian National consensus."
"We Palestinians are capable of advancing our economy away from external interventions," al-Masri argued.
Prominent Palestinian businessman and entrepreneur, Sam Bahour, wrote: "Palestinians need a state, not a business plan," describing the upcoming event as Trump's attempt to "batter the Palestinians into political surrender," with money as "his weapon of choice."
Bahour concluded that any capital investment into the Palestinian economy won't go far for as long as the Israeli occupation "is determined to maintain full control of and exploit every aspect of the Palestinian economy."
So far, the only Palestinian who confirmed their attendance to the workshop has been an outcast, called, Ashraf Jabari, who fled the PA areas to lives in an Israeli settlement in Hebron after being accused of treason. Jabari's own family disowned him and called him a "crook" and an "outlaw." The US designated Jabari as a representative of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce.
Muhammad Shehada is a writer and civil society activist from the Gaza Strip and a student of Development Studies at Lund University, Sweden. He was the PR officer for the Gaza office of the Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights.