Failure to launch? Economic workshop signals little appetite for US peace plan

With the Palestinians still boycotting the White House and the Gulf states busy with Iran, the ‘deal of the century’ is proving a tough sell for Trump administration

A Palestinian man stands next to an USAID billboard in the southern West Bank city of Halhoul,

Avi Issacharoff writes in Times of Israel, “‘This isn’t the deal of the century. It’s the bluff of the century,” a senior Palestinian official told me this week. He was reacting to the US announcement Sunday that it would hold an international meeting in Bahrain next month on how to improve the Palestinian economy. The official said that since the Trump administration’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace has little support in the Arab world, Washington is currently being forced to make do with a limited forum that will only address the economic aspects of the proposal.”

“Other leading Palestinian officials have told various media outlets that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority intends to boycott the conference, which the White House is billing as a “workshop.” PA Minister Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee and a close associate of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, declared in a post on his Facebook page that “any Palestinian who takes part in the conference will be considered a collaborator.”

“Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas’s spokesman, clarified that only the PA leader would determine the Palestinian stance on taking part in the conference, though it’s hard to imagine the PA sending a representative after one of the president’s closest associates used such harsh terms to describe theoretical participants.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, meets with US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, second left, and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt

“At the moment, it does not appear that any major Arab country has agreed to get behind US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.” One after another, they have rejected the formulas that Jared Kushner, the administration’s point man for Middle East peace, is trying to market. Jordan has already made clear it has no intention of backing a plan that doesn’t include support for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel with its capital in East Jerusalem. In Egypt, the tone toward the US plan has been less firm, but it seems doubtful President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi will publicly join the White House’s peace efforts.” (more…)

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa attends the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, in Beirut, Lebanon, January 20, 2019

Raphael Ahrens writes in Times of Israel, 

“Drop the cynicism. The Bahrain economic confab is a big step forward”

“It’s easy to be cynical about Donald Trump’s desire to clinch the “deal of the century.” It’s even easier to dismiss next month’s US-Bahraini economic “workshop,” which is billed as the first step in rolling out the administration’s much-anticipated peace plan, as a predetermined failure. The Americans are planning a wedding but have forgotten to invite the bride, more than one pundit scoffed this week, noting correctly that the Palestinians are not interested in attending the Manama conference.”

“It’s true that the event is unlikely to lead to a breakthrough in the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Peace will not break out after the June 25-26 summit, and probably not after the second part of Trump’s peace plan is unveiled either. But the focus on Ramallah’s refusal to engage with an administration it views as hostile misses a very important point: the mere fact that the peace proposal’s rollout will take place in an Arab capital is nothing less than a sensation.”

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz in Oman, November 5, 2018

“On paper, the Arab world has firmly rebuffed and rejected the various recent Trump Administration initiatives and moves regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict, which were seen as presents to the Israeli government. There was barely a country in the region that did not condemn the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the relocation of the embassy, or the drastic cuts to UNRWA and other Palestinian causes. Even the American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights was overwhelmingly condemned, including by enemies of Bashar Assad’s Syria.”

And yet, the Kingdom of Bahrain is willingly playing host to the ceremonial unveiling of the Trump administration’s peace plan. Just a few months after Washington cut all financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, Bahrain co-issued an official statement saying next month’s “Peace to Prosperity” workshop will focus on an “achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region.”  (more…)

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