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Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce co-founders Avi Zimmerman and Ashraf Jabari.(Photo by: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Jabari: Bahrain workshop not part of Trump peace plan
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
05/29/2019
The Palestinian Authority has sworn to boycott the meeting. Ashraf is the only Palestinian to date, to have publicly pledged to attend the meeting.
The Bahrain workshop is not part of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari told reporters in Jerusalem on Tuesday as he defended his decision to attend the June 25-26 economic meeting.

“This is a pure economic summit,” Jabari said.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration said that in Bahrain it would unveil the economic portion of its much anticipated plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinian Authority has sworn to boycott the meeting. Ashraf is the only Palestinian to date to have publicly pledged to attend the meeting.

Jabari said another 13 Palestinian businessmen plan to head to Bahrain, but that they had not spoken publicly about it.

Jabari plans to go to Bahrain as the representative of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce, which he co-founded in 2017 to encourage joint economic activity between Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

The Trump administration has nodded in his direction, with US special envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeting his appreciation of Jabari’s support.

“Thank you Ashraf Jabari for your open minded approach to our upcoming econ[omic] workshop,” Greenblatt tweeted.

Jabari has met in the past with US Ambassador David Friedman. There had also been some talk about a White House visit to meet with US officials.

But at a press conference sponsored by Media Central in Jerusalem, Jabari attempted to walk a fine line between working with the US to improve the Palestinian economy while disavowing any participation in the Trump peace process.

It is important to separate economics and politics, Jabari said.

“We have to work in all directions to help our people,” he said. Jabari spoke in Arabic and his words were translated into English.

A strong economy can have a positive impact on any political process, he said.

Chamber co-founder and President Avi Zimmerman said the US administration was familiar with a plan the chamber has put together to advance joint economic projects.

“Just today we received some requests to provide them with more information,” Zimmerman said.

He added that he hoped the chamber could provide a venue through which US funds could be made available to support the Palestinian economy. As the result of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), which was enacted this year, there is no longer any mechanism by which Palestinians can receive US funding. Under the terms of ATCA, receipt of such funds would make the PA legally liable in US courts for monetary judgments relating to terror activity.

“The system is broken, there is no way today for the US government to transfer one dollar to the PA,” Zimmerman said. In that situation, he said, organizations such as his chamber can play an important role in helping the US provide financial assistance to Palestinians.

“The third sector has to step in and create that infrastructure,” he said.

Currently there are some 150 Palestinian business owners and another 100 merchants registered with the chamber, Zimmerman said. But he hoped that such a list would be expanded to 3,000 Palestinian businessmen and merchants.
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