City view of Bahrain's capital Manama.
(photo credit: HAMAD I MOHAMMED / REUTERS)
MANAMA, Bahrain – The “Peace to Prosperity” workshop kicked off Tuesday evening after cocktails and a reception in a luxurious hotel overlooking the Persian Gulf.
Manama is the host city and Bahrain is the host country, but the reason that the conference is being held here, said Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum – of Bar-Ilan University’s Middle Eastern Studies Department and an expert on the Persian Gulf – is because the Saudis told the Bahranis to do so.
Bahrain, he said, is a “satellite of Saudi Arabia,” as evidenced by the fact that following unrest in the country in March 2011 – at the onset of the protests that swept the Arab world called the “Arab Spring” – Riyadh dispatched troops across the causeway separating the two countries to prop up the Bahrani government.
“The Americans wanted this conference to be held in the Gulf,” Teitelbaum said, “because that is where the money is.”
And the “Peace to Prosperity” program to be discussed here calls for a lot of money – some $50 billion – to be invested in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
Bahrain, Teitelbaum said, is the “easiest” candidate to hold such a conference in the Gulf, since it “competes with the UAE” for closest under-the-radar relations with Israel, and since neither Qatar nor Kuwait would host something like this gathering.
According to Teitelbaum, holding the workshop in Bahrain is a huge “Saudi wink. They don’t want to do it themselves, so they will have Bahrain carry their water.”
Teitelbaum dismissed the notion that Bahrain might be concerned that hosting the conference will anger the Palestinians, who are boycotting and deriding it.
“They don’t care about angering the Palestinians,” he said. “Saudi Arabia wants to do something nice for [US President] Donald Trump. Bahrain is pretty much a Saudi dependency, so they are doing the Saudis bidding in this respect.”
Asked why the Saudis – if they wanted to make a gesture to Trump – could not hold the conference themselves, Teitelbaum said: “They don’t want to be out front on this kind of thing. They would rather work behind the scenes.”
He said Riyadh does not feel it has anything to gain by taking the lead on this.
“This is how they do it,” he explained. “They have Bahrain do it.”
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