Foreign minister says Israel will attend US-led peace summit in Bahrain

Israel Katz says Jerusalem has ‘key role to play’ in process of boosting regional economic cooperation; formal invitation yet to be extended

Interim Foreign Minister and then-transportation minister Israel Katz speaks in Jerusalem on February 27, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Interim Foreign Minister and then-transportation minister Israel Katz speaks in Jerusalem on February 27, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Sunday that Israel would participate in the US-led economic peace conference in Bahrain next week.

Katz made the remarks to reporters on the sidelines of the Jerusalem Post conference in New York.

Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have agreed to attend the unveiling of the economic component of a new US peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a workshop set for June 25 and 26 in Bahrain.

While Israel has yet to receive an official invitation, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is widely expected to attend the June 25-26 meeting in Manama. Channel 13 News reported last week that the US organizers were waiting for more Arab countries to RSVP before they extend a formal invitation to the Jewish state.

Addressing the conference on Sunday, Katz said that the US, backed by Israel, is “leading a process of regional economic cooperation” for the benefit of the entire Middle East.

“This includes promoting ties with the pragmatic Arab countries in the region, via security cooperation and joint economic initiatives. A central part of these efforts is the planned Bahrain ‘Peace to Prosperity’ economic workshop,” he said.

“Israel has a key role to play in this process,” Katz said.

With its experience and capabilities, the Jewish state “can participate in these efforts and contribute in different fields of interest,” Katz added.

Katz, who is also transportation minister, also spoke about his “Tracks for Regional Peace” initiative, a program that he hopes to use to connect Israel and the Palestinian Authority with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states.

“It is a practical vision for the future, which can bring economic, political and strategic benefits,” Katz said. “As foreign minister, I intend to promote regional economic cooperation as a top priority.”

The US administration and Bahrain announced in mid-May that they would host the economic workshop in the Bahraini capital of Manama in late June, and that it “will facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region.”

(L-R) Brian Hook, US special representative for Iran, Trump adviser Jared Kushner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Israel’s US envoy Ron Dermer, at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on May 30, 2019. (Ziv Sokolov/US Embassy Jerusalem)

American officials have said that the meeting will deal with the economic portion of its apparently forthcoming plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a plan whose unveiling has been delayed by political instability inside Israel.

The Palestinians have firmly rejected the conference. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership will neither attend nor accept its results.

The PA last week said it “deeply regrets” the decision by Egypt and Jordan to participate in the economic workshop in Bahrain and called on them and other “brotherly” nations to withdraw.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the weekly PA cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 29, 2019. (Majdi Mohammed/Pool/AFP)The Palestinian government “deeply regrets the declaration of Cairo and Amman about its participating in the workshop and call on them and all brotherly and friendly countries to withdraw from participating in the workshop,” said spokesman Ibrahim Melhim.

“Under the cover of this participation, the US is trying to create solutions outside the realm of international legitimacy that detract from the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.

The US has been attempting to rally support for the conference, which has come under criticism for seemingly placing economic issues ahead of reaching a political solution to the conflict.

The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia announced in May that they would participate in the conference.

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