Former Israeli liaison to Palestinians to attend Bahrain peace summit
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Former Israeli liaison to Palestinians to attend Bahrain peace summit

White House has only invited ‘a single-digit number’ of Israeli businesspeople to conference, source says

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

US President Donald Trump's peace envoy Jason Greenblatt (L) tours a Hamas terror tunnel near the Gaza Strip with Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai, on August 30, 2017. (COGAT Spokesperson's Office)
US President Donald Trump's peace envoy Jason Greenblatt (L) tours a Hamas terror tunnel near the Gaza Strip with Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai, on August 30, 2017. (COGAT Spokesperson's Office)

Yoav Mordechai, a former head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, will attend the US-led economic workshop in Bahrain next week, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

COGAT is the Defense Ministry branch that is responsible for liaising with the Palestinians.

Mordechai received an invitation to attend the conference from the White House and subsequently confirmed he would accept, the source told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

Asked whether the White House had invited Mordechai to the conference, an American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in an email: “We will provide a list of attendees closer to the event.”

The US administration and Bahrain announced in mid-May that they will host an economic workshop in Manama on June 25-26 that “will facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region.”

American officials have said that the summit will deal with the economic portion of the White House’s apparently forthcoming plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

File: Then-coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, left, and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh sign an agreement to revitalize the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, January 15, 2017. (Courtesy COGAT)

The US administration has only invited “a single-digit number” of Israeli businesspeople to the conference, the source said.

The American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that Israeli officials would not participate in the workshop.

“This is a workshop where we will present our economic vision for the Palestinian people,” the official said. “As such, we want the focus to be on the economic aspect, not the political.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday: “Soon an important conference will be held in Bahrain, which we welcome — an attempt by the US to bring about a better future for the region. Israelis will be present as well.”

Mordechai, who speaks Arabic, concluded his term as COGAT chief on May 1, 2018.

He is currently chairman of the Novard Group, a company that works on humanitarian and infrastructure issues in the Arab world, the source said, noting that the business keeps “a low profile” and does not do work in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians have firmly rejected participating in the conference; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said his Ramallah-based leadership will not accept its results and demanded that any peace effort begin with political rather than economic matters.

Since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated the relocation of the US Embassy in the Jewish state to the city, the Palestinian Authority has significantly downgraded its ties with Washington.

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