W. Bank businessman Bashar al-Masri gets invite, rejects it

Palestinians reject US economic peace summit in Bahrain, say they won’t attend

Senior officials say Palestinians were not consulted about ‘workshop’ in Manama; bid will fail without political solution

Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The Palestinian leadership on Monday pushed back against a plan for an economic conference next month in support of Washington’s Middle East peace plan, saying it was not consulted and no party was entitled to negotiate on its behalf.

The White House announced Sunday it would co-host the June 25-26 conference with Bahrain focusing on economic aspects of the long-delayed peace plan, with the declared aim of achieving Palestinian prosperity.

“We were not consulted by any party on the announced meeting to take place in Manama, Bahrain,” Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement. “We have not mandated any party to negotiate on our behalf.”

A senior administration official in Washington told reporters Sunday that invitations to the conference are being sent to individuals in the United States, Europe, the Gulf, the wider Arab world and “some” Palestinian business leaders.

It was not known if Abbas’s Palestinian Authority was being invited. There also was no immediate comment from Israel.

Some Hebrew media reports on Monday claimed that an Israeli delegation led by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is also to receive an invite — a move that would mark a step toward normalized relations between Jerusalem and Bahrain.

Palestinian minister Ahmed Majdalani told Reuters Palestinians would not send a representative.

Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

“There will be no Palestinian participation in the Manama workshop,” he said. “Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel.”

Palestinian entrepreneur Bashar-Masri in front of his residential project of Rawabi, on February 23, 2014 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

Palestinian businessman Bashar al-Masri said he had been invited to the conference, but would not attend.

“We will not work with any event outside the Palestinian national consensus,” he said on Facebook.

The plan envisions large-scale investment and infrastructure work, much of it funded by wealthy Arab countries, in the Palestinian territories.

But officials say the gathering will not address the core political issues at the center of the conflict: final borders, the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees or Israeli security demands.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh talks during an interview with The Associated Press, at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

“Any solution to the conflict in Palestine must be political … and based on ending the occupation,” PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said at a Monday cabinet meeting. “The current financial crisis is a result of a financial war waged against us and we will not succumb to blackmailing and extortion and will not trade our national rights for money.”

The Palestinians, who severed ties with the US over a year ago, have repeatedly expressed fears that the White House will try to buy them off with large sums of investment in exchange for freezing their demands for an independent state. They believe the US is trying to rally support from other Arab countries to bully them into accepting a plan they see as unacceptable.

“Attempts at promoting an economic normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine will be rejected,” Erekat said Monday. “This is not about improving living conditions under occupation but about reaching Palestine’s full potential by ending the Israeli occupation.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the plan was doomed to fail if no political solution was included.

“Any plan without a political horizon will not lead to peace,” Abu Rudeineh said.

The Trump administration is expected to unveil the long-awaited plan — after numerous failures by their predecessors — possibly as early as next month, but the Palestinians have already rejected it as heavily biased in favor of Israel.

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, right, listens as US President Donald Trump, left, announces a revamped North American free trade deal, in the Rose Garden of the White House on October 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Washington has yet to commit to an exact timetable as concerns the political aspects of the plan.

On Sunday, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner said the Manama meeting would be an “opportunity to present our ideas for creating greater economic vibrancy in the region.”

“The Palestinian people, along with all people in the Middle East, deserve a future with dignity and the opportunity to better their lives,” he said in a statement.

“Economic progress can only be achieved with a solid economic vision and if the core political issues are resolved,” Kushner added. “We look forward to presenting our vision on ways to bridge the core political issues very soon.”

Kushner has promised new ideas for the plan, indicating that the Trump proposal will pull back from longstanding mentions of a two-state solution with the Palestinians and accept Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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