Palestinian officials on Wednesday expressed disappointment over the decision by some Arab states – including Jordan, Egypt and Morocco – to attend the US-led economic conference in Bahrain later this month.
The officials renewed their call to all Arabs to follow the example of the Palestinians and boycott the conference, which is scheduled to be launched in the capital Manama on June 25.
“Of course we’re disappointed,” said a senior Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah. “Arab participation in the conference would be a severe blow to all Palestinians.”
The official claimed that the US administration was exerting immense pressure on Arab countries not to heed the Palestinian call for boycotting the Bahrain conference. “We understand that some Arab states are facing heavy pressure, but that does not mean that they should act against the interests of their people and the Palestinians.”
Another PA official played down the decision of some Arab countries to attend the conference, saying their participation would be “symbolic” and “meaningless.”
“The Arabs are well aware that they are not authorized to represent the Palestinians at the conference,” he said.
Leaders of the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction, who held an emergency meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday, renewed their call to Arab states to boycott the conference.
The leaders also called on Bahrain to rescind its decision to host the conference, where the US administration is scheduled to unveil the economic portion of its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century.”
The appeal came in response to reports that Jordan, Egypt and Morocco have confirmed their participation in the Bahrain conference. Earlier, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced that they, too, would be attending the “economic workshop” in Bahrain despite Palestinian calls for boycotting the conference.
Majed al-Fityani, secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, a key decision-making body, called on Arab countries that have agreed to attend the conference to rescind their decision.
“We say to the Arabs that we reject the Bahrain conference,” he said. “We urge you to boycott this workshop. We don’t want this conference to turn into a security net for perpetuating the occupation. Our rights are nonnegotiable, and our people are capable of using their methods to confront the big conspiracy.”
Fityani warned the Arabs against becoming tools in the hands of the US administration and “partners in a deal aimed at eliminating the Palestinian cause.” The Palestinians, he added, have not mandated anyone to speak on their behalf at international forums.
The Fatah council said in a statement that the US administration “has become a partner of the occupation, and all it wants is to change the form of this occupation and preserve it.”
The council reiterated its rejection of US President Donald Trump’s upcoming peace plan. “Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale,” it said, calling on Palestinians to hold protests during the Bahrain conference to voice their opposition to US and Israeli policies.
The PA government expressed “regret” over reports that Jordan, Egypt and Morocco have decided to attend the Bahrain conference. The government, too, called on all Arab states to boycott the conference, claiming that the US administration is trying to impose solutions that are not in line with “international legitimacy.”
PA government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said that the purpose of the conference is to “replace the motto of ‘land for peace’ with the motto of ‘economic prosperity for peace.’” He expressed fear that Arab participation in the conference would send the “wrong message” to the US about Arab rejection of the “Deal of the Century.”
Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip expressed outrage over the decision of some Arab countries to attend the Bahrain conference.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, called on the Arab states to reconsider their decision, which contradicts the Palestinians’ opposition to participation in the conference.
“The conference is part of the ‘Deal of the Century,’ which aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” he said.
Ismail Radwan, another Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, reiterated his movement’s opposition to the conference.
“The issue of Palestine is not an economic or humanitarian issue,” he said. “It is the issue of a displaced people, and there is no room for the occupation on the land of Palestine. We call on the Arab states to boycott this conference, which will fail because of the absence of the Palestinians.”
Meanwhile, Israel has not officially said yet that it has received a formal invitation to the conference, apparently waiting for a “critical mass” of Arab countries to announce their participation before saying that it will also take part.
One US official said an Israeli announcement is expected “soon.”Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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