Palestinians call for general strike, mass protests against Bahrain meet

Demonstrations slated to take place in Gaza and West Bank day before Trump administration’s economic workshop in Manama, which PA has said it will neither attend nor heed

Illustrative: Palestinian men walk past closed shops in the West Bank city of Hebron as a general strike was called following US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, December 7, 2017. (HAZEM BADER/AFP)
Illustrative: Palestinian men walk past closed shops in the West Bank city of Hebron as a general strike was called following US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, December 7, 2017. (HAZEM BADER/AFP)

Palestinians on Saturday called for mass protests against a regional workshop where the Trump administration will unveil the economic part of its long-awaited plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party said that Palestine Liberation Organization factions have also called a general strike on June 25, when the Mideast conference begins in Bahrain.

The protests in the West Bank and Gaza are slated to take place a day ahead of the workshop.

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

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas speaks during the weekly PA cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 29, 2019. (Majdi Mohammed/Pool/AFP)

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

Egypt, Jordan and Morocco have informed the Trump administration that they will attend the conference, a senior US official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday, ending weeks of uncertainty and paving the way for Israel to be invited as well.

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.

Earlier a top PLO official took a more understanding approach to the decisions from Egypt and Jordan, but dismissed the meet as one organized by the “ruling Zionist lobby group in America” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Fatah and PLO official, told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency that he believed the Arab countries’ participation would be merely symbolic.

“The decision is not surprising. They have special ties with the United States and we cannot judge the circumstances that caused them to participate, but we are certain [their] participation will be symbolic and not at a high level,” Ahmad said.

Azzam al-Ahmad gives a press conference at a hotel in Cairo, August 13, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Khaled Desouki)

“We would have preferred that they did not participate at all and that Bahrain did not host such a meeting, which the ruling Zionist lobby in America that is allied with the extremist right led by Netanyahu, is organizing,” he added, expressing hope that other Arab countries would refuse to participate in the workshop.

“How can the workshop take place in a brotherly Arab country in the absence of the main stakeholder of the [Palestinian] issue…? The mere holding of [the conference] is in contravention of the Arab Peace Initiative that affirmed the two-state solution, ending the occupation, establishing an independent Palestinian state and the return of refugees in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194,” he said.

“Whatever the results of the workshop, there is no legal value to it as long as the stakeholders oppose it,” he concluded.

The Trump administration and Bahrain announced in mid-May that they would host an economic workshop in the Bahraini capital of Manama on June 25 and 26 to “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 again delayed by political instability in Israel.

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.

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

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

Israel has reportedly not yet received an invite. According to an Israeli report this week, US officials wanted to clinch enough Arab participation, particularly that of Egypt and Jordan, before bringing Israel in. If invited, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon would likely represent Jerusalem.

Senior White House aide Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a key architect of the peace gambit, was quoted telling Palestinian news outlet al-Quds earlier Tuesday that Egypt, Jordan and Morocco would attend the conference.

Jordanian King Abdullah said earlier on Tuesday that Jordan should attend the workshop, Ammon News, an Amman-based news site, reported.

(R to L) Queen Rania of Jordan, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein applaud as they attend the opening ceremony of the 2019 World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, at the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea, in Jordan on April 6, 2019. (Photo by Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)

“His majesty referred to the necessity of Jordan being present at international conferences about the Palestinian issue, whether that is the Bahrain conference or elsewhere, so that we can listen and remain knowledgeable of what is taking place,” the Ammon News report said, without attributing the comments to a named or unnamed source.

Abdullah made the comment in a meeting with former ministers and media and political personalities, the report said.

There was no immediate comment from Cairo or Rabat.

AP contributed to this article.

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