Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas derided the US-led economic workshop in Bahrain on Wednesday evening, describing it as a “big lie” concocted by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner to embarrass the Palestinians.
The Palestinians fiercely opposed the conference in Manama last week, refused to participate and vowed not to accept its results.
“Of course, Manama started with a speech by Kushner and ended with a speech by Kushner. If anyone understands what else [happened], I ask you to inform me because I did not understand that anything did. That is all that came out of it,” Abbas said, addressing Arab and Palestinian journalists at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah.
“It came and went. It ended. Some Arabs attended and some did not. Some Europeans attended and some did not. It is a big lie that Kushner and others invented to make fools of the people. Nobody makes fools of us,” added the PA leader.
The conference in Bahrain focused on the economic portion of the US plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which proposes billions of dollars of investment in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and neighboring Arab countries. The White House has yet to unveil the political framework of the plan.
Kushner delivered a speech at the beginning of the summit in Manama and held an on-stage discussion with former UK prime minister Tony Blair toward the end of it. The conference also included a number of panels, featuring businesspeople, representatives of international organizations and others.
The Palestinian leadership has asserted that the conference’s economic focus sought to undermine its aspirations for statehood. It has also accused the US of attempting to use the gathering to normalize Israel’s status in the Arab world.
US and Israeli officials have criticized the Palestinians for boycotting the summit.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu censured the Palestinian leadership’s rejection of the conference on Tuesday, accusing it of holding “the prosperity of their own people hostage to their ideology against Israel.”
In his remarks, Abbas also outlined conditions for the resumption of contacts between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and the White House.
“You recognize the vision of two states and [acknowledge] East Jerusalem is occupied land and international legitimacy is the basis of any dialogue. If you say these words to me or send me these words on a small piece of paper… you will find me at the White House the following day,” Abbas said. “We have not closed the door on America but rather left it ajar.”
Shortly after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in December 2017, and initiated the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinians significantly downgraded their ties with Washington, including cutting relations with the White House.
The PA president’s comments came hours after Kushner said Trump remains “very fond” of Abbas, despite the break in ties. Speaking to reporters in a rare on-record telephone briefing, Kushner also indicated that his Middle East peace plan will seek to better integrate Palestinian refugees inside Arab countries rather than endorsing or advancing the Palestinian demand, rejected by Israel, for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians to today’s Israel.
Abbas also claimed that only one Palestinian, who he accused of being a spy, attended the conference in Bahrain.
“One spy, whose name I do not want to mention, went there,” he said. “He went under Israel’s patronage. One spy. Other than him, all the Palestinians, businessmen and everyone else without exception, said: ‘No, we will not go to Manama.'”
A small number of Palestinian businessmen attended the conference, including Ashraf Jabari, who often is derided as being outside the Palestinian mainstream for his ties with settlers and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Jabari said at a press conference earlier this week in Jerusalem that 15 Palestinian businessmen attended summit.
The PA arrested and later released one participant, Saleh Abu Mayala, and confiscated the passport, government-issued ID and credit cards of a second attendee, Ashraf Ghanem, a 45-year-old owner of a furniture company.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.