Palestinian factions call for boycotting Bahrain economic workshop

Palestinian businessman rejects invitation to attend conference.

Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures during a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank February 20, 2019.  (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Mohammad Shtayyeh gestures during a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank February 20, 2019.
Several Palestinian factions on Monday called for boycotting next month’s conference in Bahrain, where the US administration plans to unveil the economic part of its plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “deal of the century.”
The factions warned the Palestinian leadership against participating in the conference and said it was part of a scheme to liquidate the Palestinian cause.
The White House announced on Sunday that Bahrain will host a workshop on June 25-26 in the capital Manama, where “government, civil society and business leaders will share ideas, discuss strategies and galvanize support for potential investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement.”
The announcement came as a surprise to Palestinian officials in Ramallah. They said that they were not consulted about the conference and stressed that the only way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was through a political, and not economic, solution. The officials said, however, that a final decision on Palestinian participation in the conference would be made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after consulting with senior PLO and Fatah leaders.
Abbas was scheduled to arrive in Doha, Qatar, on Monday for talks with Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on bilateral relations and the latest developments in the region.
The visit comes amid tensions between Qatar and the PA leadership, particularly over the emirate’s delivery of funds to the Gaza Strip in recent months. Some PA officials have accused Qatar of meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians for its alleged support for Hamas.
“I believe we will boycott the Bahrain workshop,” a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post. “We haven’t received an invitation yet to attend the workshop, but the final decision will be taken by President Abbas after consulting with the Palestinian leadership.”
Prominent Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri revealed on Monday that he has received an invitation to attend the workshop. “I will not participate in this conference,” he said in a Facebook post. “We reaffirm that we won’t deal with any event that is not within Palestinian national consensus. We Palestinians are able to advance our economy away from foreign interventions.” Masri said the idea of economic peace was an old one that is now being presented in a different form. “As our people rejected it in the past, they reject it now,” he added.
PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Monday that the Palestinians and their leaders were not seeking an improvement of living conditions “under the occupation.” Speaking during the weekly PA cabinet meeting in Ramallah, Shtayyeh said that the Palestinian government was not consulted about the planned workshop – “not concerning its inputs or outputs, its timing or even its form and content.”
Shtayyeh pointed out the current financial crisis in the PA was the “result of the financial war waged against us to extort political positions.” The Palestinians, he added, “don’t surrender to blackmail and don’t trade their national rights in return for money.” PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat too said that the Palestinians were not consulted.
“[US President Donald Trump’s] vision is being implemented on the ground with their decisions and positions on Jerusalem, settlements and refugees, among others,” Erekat said. “All efforts to make the oppressor and the oppressed coexist are doomed to fail. Attempts at promoting an economic normalization of the Israeli occupation will be rejected. This is not about improving living conditions under occupation, but about reaching Palestine’s full potential by ending the Israeli occupation. The basic requirements for peace are well known within the context of full implementation of the long overdue inalienable rights of the Palestinian people as per international law and UN resolutions, with an independent State of Palestine on the 1967 border, with east Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution to all final status issues based on international law and the [2002] Arab Peace Initiative.”
FORMER PA minister of information Nabil Amr, however, welcomed the US administration’s decision to delay the announcement of the political part of the deal and described it as an “important step in the right direction.”
In an interview with Maan news agency, Amr also welcomed the workshop “on condition that it does not come as an alternative to a political solution, which is the basis for tackling the conflict on the Palestinian-Israeli track.” Amr called on the Palestinian leadership to be more open to the political developments in the region and the world and to positively engage with influential forces in the international arena, including the US.
The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) warned against participation in the “poisonous” workshop and said it was intended to serve as a platform for Arab endorsement of the “deal of the century.” The group claimed that the plan endorses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision of economic peace as a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. The PFLP called on the Palestinian leadership to boycott the workshop and hold to account anyone who agrees to participate. It also warned Arab governments not to “conspire against the Palestinian cause and rights or assist in passing liquidationist schemes.”
Another Palestinian extremist group – the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, also affiliated with the PLO – condemned the conference as a “stab in the back of the Palestinians and their martyrs and prisoners. The workshop, the group said, “marks a departure from the resolutions of the Arab summits and is a suspicious embroilment in the American-Israeli project to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
The PLO’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said the US administration’s decision to postpone the announcement of the political part of the plan was an attempt to mislead public opinion. The US administration has already “implemented 70% of its plan,” said DFLP official Mahmoud Khalaf.
Hamas also voiced its opposition to the Bahrain workshop and said the Palestinians reject the plan in its entirety.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Ahmed al-Mudalal said the Palestinians reject economic initiatives that are part of a deal to erase the Palestinian cause.