US says Mideast conference in Bahrain to go ahead despite Israeli election

With Trump advisers in region to rally support for next month’s summit, official clarifies that separate rollout of plan’s political elements will take place when timing’s right

US President Donald Trump (right) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Oval Office of the White House, March 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump (right) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Oval Office of the White House, March 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — A US-led conference on economic aspects of a Middle East peace plan will go ahead next month in Bahrain despite Israel’s snap elections, the State Department said Thursday.

“We are not anticipating any changes. It’s set for June 25 and 26,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

Another US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a separate rollout of the political elements of the plan would take place “when the timing is right.”

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, had been preparing for months to unveil the peace plan but had said he was waiting for Israel’s elections in April as well as the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Israel, however, on Thursday set new elections for September 17 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition.

The Bahrain conference is expected to look at economic opportunities for the Palestinians, through funding from Washington’s Gulf Arab allies that are united with Israel and the United States in opposing Iran.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (center) meets White House adviser Jared Kushner (4th from left) and US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, (3rd from left) in Amman on May 29, 2019. (Petra News)

Kushner has hinted that the United States in turn will not push for the creation of a Palestinian state, a key goal of decades of US-led diplomacy, and Netanyahu during his last campaign vowed to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority has already said it will boycott the Bahrain conference, not seeing Trump as an honest broker after his landmark recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Kushner and Trump’s Middle East adviser Jason Greenblatt were in the Middle East this week, making stops in Morocco and Jordan in order to rally support for the Bahrain conference before arriving in Israel on Wednesday evening. Neither Amman nor Rabat have stated whether they will attend the conference,

The Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, along with host Bahrain, have accepted invitations to attend. This has fueled Palestinian jitters that they will come under heavy pressure to accept large sums of money in exchange for freezing or abandoning aspirations for an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

In accepting the invitation to the Bahrain conference, Gulf countries have been careful to express solidarity with the Palestinians but have also signaled flexibility.

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