All we are saying is give $50 billion a chance: 9 things to know for June 25
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All we are saying is give $50 billion a chance: 9 things to know for June 25

The Bahrain conference is set to kick off, with skepticism as high as a Kushner penthouse, though some say there is still potential for a worthwhile outcome

A Palestinian man burns a photo of US President Donald Trump during protests against a US-led meeting this week in Bahrain on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank city of Hebron on June 24, 2019. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
A Palestinian man burns a photo of US President Donald Trump during protests against a US-led meeting this week in Bahrain on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank city of Hebron on June 24, 2019. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

1. Bahrain ballyhoo: There’s more than enough skepticism to go around, but the Bahrain conference that begins Tuesday evening is still the talk of the town in Israel.

  • Tabloid Israel Hayom, which is as pro-Trump as they come, calls Bahrain an “island of hope.” (A picture of correspondent Ariel Kahana tootling around the island also graces the paper, which is notorious for being used by editor Boaz Bismuth as a vanity vehicle.)
  • “While many in Israel are busy trying to downplay the significance of the Bahrain workshop, the capital of small island kingdom, Manama, is getting gussied up. Celebratory signs welcome visitors even at the airport,” he gushes.
  • New Yorker Marc Schneier, who has somehow transitioned into the Persian Gulf’s chief rabbi and is attending the conference as part of the Bahraini delegation, tweets his excitement over being there.

 

  • Luckily for Rabbi Marc, he’s from the Hamptons and not Hadera. Haaretz’s Noa Landau, another reporter among the inaugural Israeli press gaggle let into the country, describes their treatment there as kind but cold.
  • “Those from Jerusalem are listed as Palestinian-born in their visa papers (who says Trump isn’t advancing a two-state solution?) and no origins at all are listed on the forms for those born in cities a little less holy to Islam. But the conference badges prepared by the Americans do have ‘Israel’ written out clearly, without any camouflage,” she writes.
  • “Bahraini government representatives, dressed in traditional white clothes, treated the rare guests hosted by Washington very courteously, though there were still some tension felt. You could call it a cold peace.”

2. Manama men: ToI’s Raphael Ahren, also in Manama, gives a rundown of everyone else who will appear on the Manama stage, from Jared Kushner to Palestinian businessman/pariah Ashraf Jabari.

  • Israel National News notes that before heading for Bahrain, the Palestinian businessmen heading to Manama stopped off for a chat with settler leader Yossi Dagan. Only Jabari is mentioned, though.
  • “What happens in Bahrain can be desirable. This is the first time that agreements are not made between politicians who are cut off from the field, but instead they focus on the region and on economic cooperation. This can bring peace, from there it can begin,” Dagan is quoted telling the group.

3. Leave me out of it: Not in the group is Mohammed Massad, 54, a Jenin-area native working in agricultural development who has resided in Haifa for 22 years, who originally said he would be going, then changed his mind after seeing who else is in the entourage.

  • “I accepted the invitation to attend the conference after it was affirmed to me that it will be about bringing real investment for the Palestinian people,” Massad tells ToI’s Adam Rasgon. “But when I learned of the names of the group of [Palestinian] businessmen attending the conference, I decided to withdraw my participation because it brings me no honor to stand alongside them.”
  • Also not at the conference are several Israeli news outlets left out in the cold, like daily Yedioth Ahronoth, which buries the story in the back of the paper.
  • “The key word of the conference is skepticism,” the paper writes.

4. Shall I compare thee to a Manhattan penthouse: In Quartz, Ephrat Livni writes that the $50 billion proposal reads like a real estate brochure, a nod to Kushner’s former forte, complete with rose-colored glasses.

  • Haaretz’s Amira Hass, meanwhile, says it’s more like a “a blueprint for a luxury yacht designed to sail on the desert sands.”
  • In Yedioth, Yoav Fromer writes that Trump is not the first to offer the Palestinians money, and shouldn’t be surprised when they turn it down, because of a recent precedent: The Boston Tea Party.
  • “The founding fathers of America also didn’t agree when they were offered a similar deal,” he writes.

5. And it’s not even clear that the promised money is there: As Lebanese scholar Rami Khouri tells al Jazeera, “The whole thing seems slightly illusory, an idea that’s supposed to be so attractive at the material level that it’ll make people forget about the political core of the conflict. Nobody believes that the fundamental practical structures have been worked out. The money clearly is not allocated.”

  • But they sure are talking about money. While many have noted the fact that the proposal and conference agenda barely contain the words Palestinian, and surely no two-state solution, al-Monitor’s Daoud Kattab looks at what is in there.
  • “An analysis of repeated terms in the 40-page US proposal shows the term ’investment’ was repeated 63 times, ‘financing’ 20 times, ‘peace’ 18 times, ‘unleashing’ and ‘empowering’ 14 times each, while West Bank, Gaza and Egypt each appeared 13 times, Jordan 12 times, Lebanon nine times, Israel six times and the word ‘billions’ six times; not mentioned a single time were ‘freedom,’ ‘independence,’ Palestine or ‘occupation.’”

6. That’ll show ’em: While Israel’s eyes are on Bahrain, the rest of the world is looking just a little bit south and east of there, at Iran and Strait of Hormuz, after US President Donald Trump slapped new sanctions on the Iranian regime.

  • Fuming over the move, Iran’s Foreign Ministry calls it “the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy.”
  • Why so mad? The New Yorker’s Robin Wright writes that the sanctions on Khamenei were “the closest that Trump has come to formally calling for a regime change.”
  • But former Treasury specialist Elizabeth Rosenberg tells her that actually, “it’s a lot of hype, but it doesn’t mean much economically. It’s unlikely to have a damaging effect.”
  • On the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page, Walter Russel Mead says it is hype, and that’s kind of the point.
  • “At the level of public diplomacy he is engaging in his standard mix of dazzle and spin, shifting from bloodcurdling threats to gentle billing and cooing as need be. And at the level of power politics he is steadily and consistently tightening the screws on Iran: arming its neighbors and assuring them of his support, tightening sanctions, and raising the psychological pressure on the regime,” he writes.
  • Israel Hayom’s Amnon Lord also praises Trump’s Iran strategy.
  • “The changes to US policy, along with Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, put Iran on the defensive. And even if the massive pressure on Iran does not bring results, it has nevertheless marked a definite change in the situation in the region: The Iranians, who use their proxies to attack southern Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Gaza Strip, are for the first time being forced to adopt a defensive stance close to home. As a result of the increasing economic pressure, the amount of resources they can allot to Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad is shrinking.”

7. Look who’s talking about Syria now: Against this background of tensions on steroids, the US, Israeli and Russian national security advisers will hold a rare tripartite summit in Jerusalem.

  • Channel 13 news writes that the meeting is important mainly for the optics. “Despite the fact that the result is likely only to be statements, the importance of it is that it is happening in Israel, with Iran watching representatives of Israel, Russia and the US discuss the future of Syria.”
  • Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer writes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is wishing the US were really the main player but knows it’s Russia that holds the cards.
  • “For Netanyahu, who will be meeting the advisers on Tuesday, this is not an ideal situation. He is an Atlanticist, a believer in the necessity of the United States acting as the guarantor of global peace. But despite his close relations with Trump, even his influence is limited. His pivot to Moscow during the Obama administration must continue now and for the foreseeable future. At the moment, hosting Russia’s victory lap around the region is the best he can hope for,” he writes.

8. Right rift: On Twitter, National Union head Bezalel Smotrich calls for his own summit, between Jewish Home leader Rafi Peretz and Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir, who are brawling and breaking up the far-right band.

  • This comes after Ben Gvir pulled his faction out of the United Right-Wing Parties over the fact that Peretz refused to push a law that would pave the way for Ben Gvir to become a Knesset member, even for just a few days before new elections.
  • Channel 13 news reported that Peretz has avoided implementing the Norwegian Law by claiming the agreement only applied to the 21st Knesset and was voided when new elections were called for September.
  • Smotrich, however, is reportedly still willing to resign his Knesset seat to make way for Ben Gvir. In the days before the April 9 elections, a recording emerged in which Smotrich vowed to do whatever he could to get Ben Gvir into the Knesset and claimed those efforts had the blessing of Netanyahu.
  • Yedioth quips that just a few months ago there was a political storm when the parties agreed to run together.

9. Free, but not finished: In a surprise decision that’s less than surprising, the military prosecutor on Tuesday morning frees Mahmoud Qadusa, who had been charged with raping a small girl, until holes in the case became too large to ignore.

  • The move comes hours before the court was to hold a remand hearing for Qadusa, who has been in jail for almost two months.
  • Channel 12 news notes that the case against Qadusa hasn’t been closed and the prosecutor is reserving the right to still charge him again.
  • It’s mutual, with Qadusa’s lawyer telling Army Radio that “the next step is to sue the state for 55 days behind bars.”
  • Meanwhile, the family of the girl is unhappy with the move. Apparently subscribing to the guilty until proven innocent theory, the lawyer for the girl’s family tells the station that there was no evidence that came forward proving Qadusa’s innocence.
  • “The state has abandoned the girl,” the lawyer says.
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