1. Putting the prosperity cart before the peace horse: Is the Bahrain economic “workshop” being put together as a first step toward the roll out of the US peace plan dead on arrival? Many appear to think so after Palestinians indicated they would not attend.
- The “Peace to Prosperity” conference looks “like a festive wedding lacking a small but important detail: The presence of the intended partner in marriage,” writes Haaretz’s Noa Landau.
- Palestinian officials said they were not consulted about the conference at all, and rejected attending, or the idea of putting finances before politics.
- “This isn’t the deal of the century. It’s the bluff of the century,” a senior Palestinian official tells ToI’s Avi Issacharoff.
- “This is just an economic workshop … [and] another way of rewarding Israel again and maintaining Israel’s control of our land and resources,” PLO official Hanan Ashrawi tells Al Jazeera.
2. Bahrain on their parade: But the US says the confab is not for Palestinian officials, but rather Palestinian business people, who have been invited. Unfortunately, it does not look like many are booking tickets for Manama.
- “I am not attending as I believe such a workshop without the full coordination and leadership of our political system is not going to lead to anything but damage to the Palestinian cause,” Bashar Masri tells Jewish Insider. “We certainly have lots of internal issues to deal with but are capable of leading and improving our economy. Our main problem is with external obstacles and interference.”
- “It looks like they’ve invited many business people, but it’s an issue related to our national interest,” Ibrahim Barham tells the Washington Post. “We can’t divide it from what’s going on in the political arena.”
- Zahi W. Khouri, a Palestinian-American entrepreneur who owns the Coca-Cola franchise in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, tells the NY Times that putting the conference first while ignoring other ills is like “trying to strangle a woman while giving her a manicure.”
- “Putting this first is a blatant payoff,” he says. “You insult the people by talking about their quality of life when you keep them locked up.”
3. One state absolution: The lone Palestinian who seems to be going is Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari, who has long sat outside the Palestinian consensus.
- “Nobody in Israel is willing to sign off on a plan on the 1967 borders, and on the Palestinian side there’s nobody willing to sign off on what the Israelis would be willing to offer. In the end, we are left with problems and violence. Therefore, I say that if we’ve waited for 25 years [since Oslo] for a Palestinian state and we didn’t get — its very sad that it won’t happen so let’s continue forward toward one state,” he tells ToI’s Jacob Magid, referring to the reported lack of Palestinian statehood in the US peace plan.
- Jabari is a favorite of Israeli right-wingers. In 2017, he spoke a conference about Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, and last week he hosted a kosher iftar Ramadan break-fast meal with settlers and others.
- Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports that one-staters are quietly cheering on the plan, predicting its failure will hasten the process they seek.
- “I don’t think it’s the intention of Mr. Trump to help Palestinians, but indirectly I think it is [helping],” Hamada Jaber of the One State Foundation tells Politico. “There is no two-state solution. It’s pushing us as Palestinians to think about an alternative.”
4. Israel’s invite lost in the mail: Jabari may have another chance to break bread with Israelis in Bahrain, with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon saying he will attend if he’s still in the position.
- “While Kahlon has not yet received a formal invitation to the event, he expects one to arrive at his desk “in a matter of days,” his flack tells ToI.
- Israel’s Channel 13 reports that the US administration’s invitation to Israel to participate was sent as a hard copy, which is en route to Israel in diplomatic mail channels.
- Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely is less gung-ho about having the blue and white flying in Manama, telling Israel Hayom that “we have no problem sending representatives to Bahrain but the problem, as always, is that the Palestinian side is not genuinely interested in economic benefits.”
5. Man oh Manama: Others also see room to be upbeat about the economic workshop announcement, specifically the fact that Bahrain has agreed to host it.
- “Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and has a history of secret, quiet ties with Israel. By hosting next month’s event, it is signaling that at least one small Arab country is willing to give the economic chapter of the U.S. peace plan a chance — and that it won’t be shocking if other countries follow suit,” writes Haaretz’s Amir Tibon.
- ToI’s Raphael Ahren calls it nothing less than a “sensation.”
- “That an Arab country, which has no formal ties with Israel and continues to pledge allegiance to the Palestinian cause, has agreed to put its name to the first part of the administration’s two-part peace plan is astonishing.”
6. Fired by tweet? The Hebrew press could seemingly not care less, with what little coverage there is of the conference overshadowed by reports on domestic political matters like coalition talks, immunity deals and state comptroller appointments.
- Yedioth Ahronoth reports the last minute voiding of Michal Rozenboim as a candidate for the state auditor job has angered the ultra-Orthodox UTJ party, which had backed her.
- According to the paper, it thinks she was pulled at the last minute after Eldad Yaniv, a leading activist against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted to Netanyahu’s son that he was friends with her.
- Yair Netanyahu tweeted back that her appointment would not be welcomed and noted her ties to Likud rival Gideon Sa’ar.
- Speaking to the Kan public broadcaster, Yaniv alleges that “Yair is running the country.”
- Likud and Netanyahu’s office deny the bad boy dauphin has anything to do with it.
7. Chasing time: Haaretz reports that Netanyahu the elder has asked that his pre-indictment hearing be delayed by a year because of the sheer magnitude of the material against him.
- Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is widely expected to allow Netanyahu to extend the date beyond a July deadline, but only by a few months.
- Meanwhile Netanyahu’s legal team only received the material last week after a dispute over pay, and Monday was supposed to be a deadline to set a date for the hearing.
- “The time frame given for the hearing is unreasonable,” lawyer Amit Haddad is quoted saying in the paper. “Even if the issue of funding had been resolved months ago, we still would have asked for the date to be put off.”
- Meanwhile, Likud MK Miki Zohar is pushing forward with a bill to let Netanyahu escape the whole legal morass, though sources close to the premier had denied to ToI that he intends to change the law in order to prevent an indictment being filed against him.
- In Israel Hayom, Amnon Lord defends the immunity law from critics Zvi Hauser and Benny Begin, both former Netanyahu allies, saying it’s needed to protect the prime minister from his political enemies.
- Lord claims that an interview in which Shai Nitzan noted that charging someone for bribery over positive media coverage would set a precedent, using it as proof that he built a case against Netanyahu over nothing.
- “When the crimes the prime minister is accused of are vague and precedent-setting, it’s strange that Hauser, Begin and their friends would speak in an inciting manner and try to negate the legitimacy of the elections.”