1. Manama-bound: Ending weeks of silence, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco told the White House they would attend the Bahrain economic workshop being put forward as the opening gambit of the US Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
- There was no official comment from the capitals, though several Jordanian news sites report that King Abdullah himself confirmed his country’s participation.
- “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,” read a report in Ammon News, seen as close to the kingdom.
- The comment, which was not attributed to a source of any kind, was later taken down from the site.
- There is no official statement from Cairo or Rabat.
- Morocco World News notes that the announcement comes after Trump envoy Jared Kushner visited Rabat late last month. However, on June 8, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita claimed Rabat had not been informed about the US peace plan.
- “Morocco does not know yet of the content of any peace plan and will express its position when it will be informed about the details of the initiative,” he said, according to the report.
2. With friends like these: The Palestinians reacted unhappily to the announcement that their supposed friends would attend the hated confab.
- 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,” says spokesman Ibrahim Melhim.
- Earlier, Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Fatah and PLO official, told Turkey’s Andolu news agency that he believed the Arab countries’ participation would be merely symbolic, since the Palestinians are not taking part.
- “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,” he says.
- The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports that Palestinian factions will instead attend an alternative workshop in Beirut (which is also boycotting the Bahrain meeting, though its unclear if Lebanon was even invited), which will focus on rejecting the US economic proposal as a “bribe.”
3. Embarrassment for Kushner: Speaking to ToI’s Adam Rasgon and Jacob Magid, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Ramallah also gave Manama an earful for hosting the conference.
- “We told them, ‘Why should you host this conference when we are not there? That’s not your right,’” he’s quoted saying.
- Erekat suggests Arab states are agreeing to go along with the conference in exchange for support against Iran, and predicts it will make a laughingstock of the Americans.
- “This conference in Manama will be the biggest setback and embarrassment for Kushner, because I know that no Arab will [attend] without saying: ‘Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital living side by side with Israel on the 1967 borders,’” he says.
4. No historic event: Luckily for the Palestinians, most are expecting little from the conference, even Israelis, according to Shlomi Eldar in al-Monitor.
- “Even if the conference takes place, it will certainly not be a historic event. Anyone looking at the picture in its entirety understands that it is likely to be a minor event and possibly an embarrassing one,” an Israeli security source tells him.
- “It is our assessment that even if the conference is held, the really important states such as Egypt and Jordan and even Saudi Arabia will send minor delegates such as deputy foreign ministers, directors general of economic ministries and even less than that,” the source adds.
- In Saudi-based Arab News, Yossi Mekelberg joins the chorus dismissing the nascent peace plan.
- “Skepticism about this alleged peace plan stems not only from the fact that it has yet to reveal itself to the world two years after it was promised it would revolutionize peace negotiations between the two sides, but also because Washington doesn’t even pretend to behave in good faith anymore. It has compromised its position as an honest broker, if it ever was one, by prejudicing at least two of the core areas that are at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees,” he writes.
5. Isolated ‘Palestinians’: Nonetheless, the decision by the troika to attend makes front page news in broadsheet Haaretz and right-wing tabloid Israel Hayom, the latter of which hails it as a sign of the Palestinians’ “isolation.”
- “As they step even closer to the abyss, the Palestinians are trying to drag the entire Arab world down with them,” columnist Eyal Zisser writes. “They expect, and are essentially demanding, for Arab states to turn their backs on their ally, the United States, and join the Palestinian Authority in its quarrel with Washington, sever all contact with the Trump administration, and help the Palestinians torpedo efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
- On Twitter, US negotiator Jason Greenblatt backs part of an op-ed by UAE-based business Khalaf al-Habtoor calling on Abbas to give Bahrain a chance.
I don't agree w/ everything in this, but lots to consider in this piece. https://t.co/sDNmmbFzpS
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) June 11, 2019
6. What’s coming: Not helping matters for the US to be seen as an honest broker were David Friedman’s comments backing unilateral Israeli annexation of some parts of the West Bank “in certain circumstances.”
- In Haaretz, Zvi Bar’el notes that the lack of serious outcry shows that an actual annexation move is just a stone’s throw away.
- “No set of international ‘certain circumstances’ could be riper to unilaterally declare annexation of parts of the West Bank than the ones existing now. Once the Israeli government has inured the people to the term ‘annexation,’ instead of recoiling in alarm, they will start preparing seriously for the event.”
- Michael Young opines in UAE-based The National that if Israel does start annexing and pursues a one-state reality, the specter of population transfer could be just around the corner, though he couches the argument in a boatload of caveats.
- “Israeli society may yet sense where all this is going, and decide that becoming a pariah is a prospect to be rejected. However, Mr Netanyahu does not believe that Israel has to give up land, and in this he is backed by the US. There is a direct line between such thinking and the view before 1948 that it was in the interest of the Jewish community in Palestine to obtain the greatest amount of land with the fewest numbers of Palestinians,” he writes.
- Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg’s threat that as president he would cut US aid to Israel if it tried to pursue annexation gets little attention outside of Israel.
7. Yair has America’s ear, kinda: What does get outsized attention inside and outside of Israel is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair Netanyahu going on the right-wing The Blaze network.
- In the interview, the younger Netanyahu tells his interviewers that Israelis think of Trump as a rock star and compares him to King Cyrus.
- The Ynet news website points out that he also claimed that Palestinians handed out candy to celebrate the 9/11 attacks on the US.
- On Israel’s Channel 12 news, clips of the younger Netanyahu interviewing on The Blaze are juxtaposed with him saying in 2017 that he had no intention of entering politics.
- The Washington Post notes that while in the US, Yair “Netanyahu also stopped by Fox News, according to his Instagram account, which showed him meeting with Tucker Carlson. He also met with Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to Trump’s reelection campaign.”
8. Spies against BDS: Haaretz reports that Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan apparently enlisted the Mossad to help in anti-boycott efforts against Israel, citing entries from his planner, released as part of a FOIA request.
- “The diaries show that Erdan met with Mossad head Yossi Cohen about ‘the struggle against the boycott,’” the paper reports. “Officials in the Strategic Affairs Ministry are proud of their work with the state’s security agencies, but hide the content and full scope of these activities on grounds that if these would be revealed, it would undermine the covert efforts being made against BDS and its leaders.
- “Officials in Erdan’s office said that the meeting with Cohen was merely a ‘review,’ but sources familiar with the ministry’s activities told Haaretz that the ministry indeed cooperates with the Mossad.”
9. Keep ‘em in their place: In ToI, Shalom Yerushalmi looks at why Erdan and other high-up Likud members were passed over for the coveted Justice Ministry post, which went to relative N00b Amir Ohana instead.
- “This is a perpetuation of the prime minister’s long-held strategy of taking down — on his own or with the help of others — a long line of high-ranking Likud officials who have posed a threat to his leadership over the years,” writes Yerushalmi.
- “We’re in a trap within a trap,” a close associate of a Likud minister tells Yerushalmi, who writes for Zman Yisrael, the Hebrew-language sister site of The Times of Israel. “We can’t get out, either. We’ve gone to these [second] elections because of the trap that Netanyahu is in — he can’t form a government due to his legal situation, so we’re all going to elections.”
10. New right, new leader: Given the shenanigans, Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer writes that the right is increasingly turning against Netanyahu.
- “For the first time in over a decade, prominent religious-nationalist pundits are wondering aloud whether they wouldn’t be better off without the eternal leader,” he writes.
- As for who the next leader of the right will be, or at least the New Right party, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that it seems former justice minister Ayelet Shaked will rejoin the party, and not as second fiddle.
- “She has not yet made a final decision. But should [she and Naftali Bennett] run together again, it seems this time she will lead the party,” the paper reports.