The Palestinians have not authorized anyone to speak or negotiate on their behalf at next month’s US-led conference in Manama, Bahrain, where the US administration is planning to unveil the economic portion of its peace plan, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said on Friday.
In an implicit criticism of Arab countries that have agreed – or are inclined to agree – to attend the conference, Erekat said in an interview with the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen television network: “As for those who are going – and this is their decision – we did not authorize anyone to speak in our name. If the Palestinian people are not there, and if the Palestinian leadership is also not there, why are they participating?”
Erekat’s statements came amid growing concern in Ramallah that several Arab states would participate in the Bahrain conference despite Palestinian opposition.
“The Arabs are telling us that they stand with the Palestinians, while at the same time they are collaborating with the US administration in liquidating the Palestinian cause,” a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post
. “Why are the Arabs acting against the promises they made to the Palestinians in all the Arab League summits and the  Arab Peace Initiative.”
Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Fatah official, said that “Jerusalem was not for sale and all the billions are not worth a stone of its Old City.”
In addition to Bahrain, which is hosting the economic workshop, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have announced that they will participate in the conference. The Palestinians fear that Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and other Arab states will also send delegates to the conference.
Last week, Erekat accompanied Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on a visit to Qatar and Jordan to discuss the upcoming economic conference in Bahrain, which the Palestinians have rejected and called for boycotting it.
Asked if Jordan was planning to participate in the Bahrain workshop, Erekat said: “In the end, countries decide for themselves. The Palestinian position has been announced in the name of President Abbas, the PLO, all the Palestinian political factions, including Hamas, businessmen from the private sector, civil society organizations and national personalities. We will not participate in the workshop held by [US] President Donald Trump’s administration.”
Erekat said the Palestinians were aware that the Trump administration was acting according to its interests and knows how to apply pressure on certain countries. “Arab countries will attend the conference, because the US is good at employing pressure on the basis of interests,” he said.
Jordan has yet to announce its decision regarding participation in the conference. While several political figures and parties in Jordan have expressed opposition to participation in the Bahrain conference, some political analysts and newspapers have emphasized the need to attend the workshop.
In an editorial, The Jordan Times
said last week that the “Palestinian side would be better advised not to rush into taking positions that may hurt them, especially when the projected Manama conference as such is only a forum for considering improving the Palestinian economies in the West Bank and Gaza.”
On Friday, the Qatari foreign minister said it “believes that there are many economic and investment challenges, some of which are linked to structural problems in the economic and institutional structure of the region’s countries and some are related to regional and international geopolitical conditions. Effective tackling of these challenges requires sincerity of intent, concerted efforts from regional and international players and appropriate political conditions for economic prosperity.”
Qatar, however, stopped short of endorsing the Palestinian call for boycotting the conference.
Noting that Qatar and Bahrain have issued statements fully supporting the Palestinians ahead of the conference, Erekat said he could not understand those Arabs who are saying that they are going to attend the conference out of concern for the interests of the Palestinians.
“If I’m not going, does that mean that you know my interests better than me?” Erekat asked. “I can understand that you are under [US] pressure. Let’s talk with transparency. You can say I can’t go because the Palestinians are not coming and I can’t accept what the Palestinians reject, and I can’t reject what they accept.”
Erekat said that Abbas asked him to talk to many states, including Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany, the EU, the UN, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and Italy, as well as Arab countries, about the upcoming conference.
Erekat repeated the Palestinian claim that the Trump administration has already begun implementing its peace plan by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, abolishing the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, and shutting the US Consulate in east Jerusalem and the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington.
Erekat said he predicts that the Bahrain conference will fail “like the recent conference that was held in Warsaw,” which was known as the US-led Middle East conference on “peace and security.”
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