In West Bank, Palestinians march against US-led peace conference in Bahrain

PLO official asserts that summit in Manama seeks to write off the Palestinian issue as an economic matter; protesters in Bethlehem burn a hanging effigy of Trump

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

Palestinian demonstrators carry banners and national flags during a protest against the US-sponsored Middle East economic conference that opened in Bahrain, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Nablus on June 25, 2019. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
Palestinian demonstrators carry banners and national flags during a protest against the US-sponsored Middle East economic conference that opened in Bahrain, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Nablus on June 25, 2019. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Al-BIREH, West Bank — Several thousand Palestinians took to the streets of Nablus on Tuesday to protest the US-led economic workshop in Bahrain, which commenced in the evening.

The protesters gathered in the center of the West Bank city, where they listened to Palestinian officials deliver speeches criticizing the conference. Many of the demonstrators also hoisted Palestinian flags, while some held up signs.

“Down with the Bahrain conference,” one of the signs read.

The US administration and Bahrain announced in mid-May that they would 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 US plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which includes proposals for more than $50 billion of investment over the next 10 years in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and neighboring Arab countries.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has firmly rejected participating in the conference; PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said that the Palestinians will not accept its results.

‘The Palestinian people will not be sold’

Some 60 kilometers south of Nablus, a small group of approximately 30 Palestinians, most of whom belong to Palestinian political factions, marched on the outskirts of Ramallah in al-Bireh to protest the summit.

A small group of Palestinian protesters march down a road on the outskirts of Ramallah on June 25, 2019 to protest the US-led economic workshop in Bahrain. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)

“The Palestinian people will not be sold,” the protesters yelled out, as dozens of journalists observed them. “It desires its state and identity.”

They were marching adjacent to Defense Ministry offices near the Beit El settlement.

Some of the younger protesters, their faces fully covered, lit tires on fire and a handful threw rocks toward Israeli security forces in the distance.

The security forces fired several rounds of tear gas at the rock-throwers and protesters, pushing them back toward Ramallah. Meanwhile, passing cars maneuvered around the protesters and the tear gas.

Wasel Abu Yousef, a Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member, lashed out at the conference in Bahrain, contending that it seeks to turn the Palestinian issue into an economic matter.

“We first need the end of the occupation and then we can discuss economic matters,” he said, standing on the sidelines of the march. “This gathering in Bahrain is an attempt to liquidate the Palestinian issue and turn it into an economic one.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas’s spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday that the conference was “born dead,” according to the official PA news site.

In Bethlehem, dozens of protesters marched toward the security barrier near Rachel’s Tomb, including some who burned a hanging effigy of US President Donald Trump.

Hundreds of Palestinians also protested on Monday in other cities in the West Bank against the conference.

PLO Executive Committee Member Wasel Abu Yousef on June 25, 2019. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)

Many prominent Palestinian businesspeople, including real estate developer Bashar Masri, have also rejected the conference and said they turned down invitations to participate in it.

US officials have criticized the Palestinians for refusing to partake in the gathering.

Within an hour after the march in al-Bireh started, the vast majority of the protesters had left.

A young demonstrator, who asked to remain nameless, criticized Arab states for participating in the conference.

“They have not stood in solidarity with us enough,” said the 19-year-old man from Ramallah, who added he did not have any political affiliation. “They all should have boycotted it.”

A number of Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt, have confirmed they would attend the summit.

Young Palestinians set tires on fire in al-Bireh on June 25, 2019. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)

Jordanian and Egyptian officials, however, said that they would only dispatch deputy finance ministers to the confab.

In the Gaza Strip, many shops and stores closed down as part of a strike to protest the summit in Manama, Hamas-linked media based in the coastal enclave reported.

The Hamas terror group and other bodies in Gaza called for a strike late last week.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the territory.

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