Israel will only send business delegation to Bahrain summit – report

Elected officials predicted to stay home because Washington, Manama prefer not to invite members of Jerusalem’s caretaker government

A view of the Manama skyline, Bahrain. (CC-BY Jayson De Leon/Wikimedia Commons)
A view of the Manama skyline, Bahrain. (CC-BY Jayson De Leon/Wikimedia Commons)

Israel will not send elected government representatives to the June 25-26 peace summit in Bahrain, the Reuters news agency reported Monday.

The Israeli delegation will instead consist of private citizens involved in business, high-tech and innovation, said the report, which cited two unnamed sources “briefed on the event.”

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon was widely expected to attend the meeting in Manama. Channel 13 news reported last week that US organizers of the conference were waiting for more Arab countries to RSVP before extending a formal invitation to the Jewish state to attend the confab, where the Trump administration is said to be planning the unveiling of the economic component of its long-simmering plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have said they will attend.

But after a discussion between American and Bahraini officials, the organizers reportedly concluded that Israeli political leaders should not be invited, in part because Israel is currently led by an interim caretaker government ahead of the September 17 elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

A spokesman for Kahlon said Monday he was unfamiliar with the report, but confirmed the finance minister had yet to receive an invitation. The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report.

Similarly, Israeli journalists seeking to cover the conference have not yet been able to obtain permission from organizers to attend.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Israel would participate in the US-led conference.  Katz made the remarks to reporters on the sidelines of the Jerusalem Post conference in New York.

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Transportation Minister Israel Katz attend the inauguration ceremony for a new train station in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, September 17, 2018. (Flash90)

“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,” he added.

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.”

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 limbo caused by new elections called in Israel.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, June 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.

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.

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