Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Israel will not attend US-sponsored Bahrain economic summit on Middle East peace

The decision ends speculation about the Israelis meeting Arab states side-by-side in the Gulf

White House Adviser Jared Kushner has tried to rally Arab support for the US peace conference next week in Bahrain. AP 
White House Adviser Jared Kushner has tried to rally Arab support for the US peace conference next week in Bahrain. AP 

Israel will not be attending next week’s economic-focused conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Bahrain, according to multiple news reports, ending weeks of speculation about whether the Israelis would be meeting Arab states side by side to discuss part one of the United States’ so-called Deal of the Century.

Israel not attending also means that neither of the two main parties – Israelis or Palestinians – will have official representatives at the workshop meant to discuss their futures.

The American-led conference, called the Peace to Prosperity Workshop, is intended to raise at least $50 billion to help kick-start the flailing Palestinian economy. US officials have said they will then later roll out the political part of their peace plan, which has been repeatedly delayed.

The Palestinian leadership and all major businessmen invited are boycotting the event, arguing that an “economic peace” approach will not work as the Israeli occupation and Palestinian sovereignty must be addressed from the start.

With less than a week to go, the exact details of what the workshop will discuss and who will attend remain unknown. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar will be attending.

It is still unclear what kind of representation Morocco, Egypt and Jordan will send to the event. Amid all of the uncertainty, the US has reportedly put significant pressure on other Arab countries such as Jordan to attend.

Israelis had speculated that Finance Minister Moshe Katz would be representing them at the conference. Israel and Arab Gulf countries have no diplomatic relationships. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid an official visit to Muscat last year. Public opinion in the Arab world is firmly against official ties between Arab states and Israel.

It is not known what the Deal of the Century will include, but, in a break with decades of US policy, it is not expected to call for a Palestinian state in the long-standing two-state solution framework.

Since taking office, US President Donald Trump and his team have been sidelining Palestinian institutions, including cutting off aid to refugees and US-sponsored development projects.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled in fighting following Israel’s independence in 1948 and became refugees around the Middle East, a status many of their descendants still hold. Israel then occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in 1967, land that Palestinians claim for a future state.

Updated: June 18, 2019 05:28 PM

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