US announces June conference to encourage investment in Palestinians as first part of ‘deal of the century’ peace plan.
The Palestinian leadership has not been consulted about a US-led conference in Bahrain next month in support of Washington’s Middle East peace plan, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.
In a joint statement with Bahrain, the White House said the gathering in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, will give government, civil and business leaders a chance to rally support for economic initiatives that could be possible with a peace agreement.
But Palestinian officials said the June 25-26 meeting would not address the core political issues of the conflict: final borders, the status of Jerusalem, or the fate of Palestinian refugees.
“The cabinet wasn’t consulted about the reported workshop, neither over the content, nor the outcome nor timing,” Shtayyeh said on Monday.
“Any solution to the conflict in Palestine must be political … and based on ending the occupation,” he added.
Social Development Minister Ahmed Majdalani, meanwhile, said Palestinian officials would not attend the June meeting.
“There will be no Palestinian participation in the Manama workshop,” Majdalani, who is also a member of the executive committee of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told Reuters news agency.
“Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel.”
The Palestinians, who severed ties with the United States more than a year ago, have repeatedly expressed fears that the White House would try to buy them off with large sums of investment in exchange for freezing their demands for an independent state. They have also expressed concerns that Washington is trying to rally support from other Arab countries to pressure them into accepting a plan they see as unacceptable.
Amid the controversy, Shtayyeh reiterated Palestinians’ core demands for a two-state peace deal with Israel, which include gaining full control of the occupied West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza, as well as occupied East Jerusalem – territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war.
Israel claims Jerusalem as its indivisible capital and has said it might declare sovereignty in its West Bank settlements, which are illegal under international law.
The Trump administration has said its still-secret peace plan would require compromise by both sides.
Since Trump came to office, the US has cut back on providing aid for the Palestinians, contributing to economic hardship in the West Bank and Gaza.
“The financial crisis the Palestinian Authority is living through today is a result of the financial war that is being launched against us in order to win political concessions,” Shtayyeh said on Monday.
Washington has yet to commit to an exact timetable on political aspects of the plan, of which Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is the chief architect.
Al Jazeera’s Kimberley Halkett, reporting from Washington, DC, said there were serious concerns within the US and elsewhere that the proposal would be “dead on arrival”, however.
“The fact that there are no discussions of Palestinian sovereignty, land claim, borders are making many people say ‘what’s the point’?,” Halkett said.
Hanan Ashrawi, a longtime aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, slammed the planned Bahrain meeting, saying it was not “a peace plan”.
“This is just an economic workshop … [and] another way of rewarding Israel again and maintaining Israel’s control of our land and resources,” Ashrawi told Al Jazeera.
“It is the Americans who have rejected everything so far; from the law to the agreements, to the basic requirements of peace to the components of any viable peace process … It shows a lack of understanding of the issues of the region,” she added.
Kushner, for his part, said it had been disheartening that the Palestinian leadership had attacked the plan before it is unveiled.
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy, described the Palestinian rejection of the June conference as “difficult to understand”.
“Our economic plan is an ambitious but achievable vision; it presents an alternative path with the potential to unlock a prosperous future for the Palestinian people if they choose to follow it,” Greenblatt said.
But Rami Khouri, a senior public policy fellow and journalism professor at the American University of Beirut, said it would make little difference whether the Palestinian’s attended the talks or not.
“The plan for this kind of gathering in the Trumpian world is for the US to dictate what it feels is in the interest of the US and the Netanyahu wing of the Israeli government,” Khouri told Al Jazeera, citing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“It’s really important to see the reaction of other major countries … the US probably can count on some of the Arab Gulf countries because they are so dependent on it for security, arms and money, but we need to look at the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese and others who may be invited to this [conference],” he added.
“The reaction of the world is going to be really critical now.”