Bahrain opportunity

Ignoring the past record of his own Fatah movement, Abbas said that the Palestinians need an improved economy but, “before anything, there must be a political solution.”

June 24, 2019 20:39
3 minute read.
BAHRAIN IS preparing to host an event devoted to the US peace plan.

BAHRAIN IS preparing to host an event devoted to the US peace plan.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas invited members of the Foreign Press Association to Ramallah on Sunday, in yet another stage of his campaign against the US-led “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop which is slated to get underway in Bahrain today.

“We are confident that the conference will not be successful,” Abbas declared. He seems set to do almost anything to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy. Abbas does not want the success of the workshop – where the Trump administration’s economic plan will be fully presented, the complement to the yet-to-be-unveiled diplomatic portion of the “Deal of the Century.”

Ignoring the past record of his own Fatah movement, Abbas said that the Palestinians need an improved economy but, “before anything, there must be a political solution.”

Of course, the Palestinians have not accepted even the most generous political solutions in the past, hence the focus this time on the economy first. And while bemoaning the undoubted current economic crisis, Abbas is refusing to accept any of the millions of dollars Israel wants to transfer from tax revenues collected on behalf of the PA, because Israeli authorities are deducting the money slated to go to the families of imprisoned and dead terrorists.

Abbas repeated his stance that he will not accept any peace plan – no matter how advantageous it could be to his own people – as long as it was presented by the US under President Donald Trump. “We will not accept America to be the sole peaceful mediator for the Middle East cause,” Abbas said. “We want Europe, Russia, the UN, [and] China, and we need Britain and Germany, as well. We will not be slaves or servants to [US special envoys] Jared Kushner [and] Jason Greenblatt or [US Ambassador to Israel] David Friedman.”

More than anything else, Abbas is against any normalization of relations with Israel, without which peace will be impossible, and quiet and stability will remain elusive.

Expressing disappointment that Jordan and Egypt decided to participate in the conference despite Palestinian calls to boycott it, Abbas declared: “There will not be normalization between the Arab states and Israel... before there is a solution between Israel and the Palestinians.”

But Israel already has peace agreements with both Jordan and Egypt – albeit a cold peace. All three countries face certain threats in common from both Iran and Islamist extremists. The Bahrain summit could be a chance to improve relations among all the countries in the region facing similar security threats – and to improve the economy for all.

The fact that Israel has managed to reach agreements in the past with two neighboring countries should be evidence that it is not Israel which is inherently against peace, but the Palestinian leadership – doing all it can to avoid it.

In typical fashion, the Palestinians have called for a three-day “Days of Rage” protest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip around the time of the Bahrain conference. It is another sign that the Palestinians – both the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza – are willing and able to turn violence on and off.

PLO official Taysir Khalid denounced the $50 billion economic plan unveiled by the US administration as a “10-year fake investment,” and claimed that the funds allocated to Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are “the price for liquidating the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees [UNRWA] and the rights of Palestinian refugees.”

But surely, if the Palestinian leadership truly wants to create an independent state of its own, it should be seeking ways of maintaining its own schools, hospitals and organizations rather than relying on UNRWA. And it is time to end the insistence that the Palestinians should be perpetual refugees, even in Palestinian-controlled areas.

More than 135 of the 193 UN member countries already recognize a “State of Palestine.” Abbas could use the Bahrain workshop to turn this international recognition into something more meaningful and beneficial.

The 83-year-old Palestinian leader needs to decide what he wants to leave as his legacy: a better, safer and more prosperous society for his people, or – to paraphrase the late Israeli diplomat Abba Eban – take the opportunity to miss an opportunity yet again.

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