White House admits Palestinian economic growth depends on peace deal
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White House admits Palestinian economic growth depends on peace deal

Ahead of Bahrain conference, which the PA is boycotting, administration official touts ‘exciting roadmap’; Jordan implies it hasn’t decided to attend

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas leave following a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas leave following a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday acknowledged that the Palestinian economic growth it envisions in its long-awaited peace plan can’t fully materialize unless the core issues of the conflict are resolved through a peace deal.

Ahead of a US-sponsored Bahrain confab later this month, where the administration plans to unveil the economic portion of its proposal, a Trump administration official said the American negotiating team recognizes that the Palestinians cannot not flourish economically without a resolution to their longstanding political disputes with Israel.

“It’s an exciting roadmap, which includes [a] detailed portfolio of real projects and capacity building programs, that has the potential to unleash sustainable, private sector-driven growth,” the official told The Times of Israel. “But we understand that only through peace and a solution to the final status issues can this level of growth be possible.”

Earlier this week, two Middle East Arab nations — Egypt and Jordan — and Morocco confirmed that they would participate in the Bahrain workshop, even as the Palestinian Authority plans to boycott it, according to the White House.

But on Thursday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi suggested that the Hashemite kingdom had not yet decided whether it would send any representatives.

“We did not announce an official position regarding the Bahrain workshop because we are exercising our right to evaluate, discuss and consult with our brothers and friends,” Safadi told Al Mamlaka TV, a state-funded channel. “When we make a decision, we will announce it.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman on January 8, 2019. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / POOL / AFP)

“If we participate,” he went on, “we would be participating to affirm our principles and clearly and confidently state our position … and if we do not participate, we would have made a decision based on our evaluation.”

The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia announced in May that they would participate in the conference, which is set to take place in Manama on June 25 and 26.

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.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that no one in the Palestinian leadership will attend.

Since US President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, the Palestinians have refused to engage with the Trump administration or its diplomatic team, led by Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, saying they forfeited their right to act as honest brokers in any negotiation.

Since then, the president has also cut aid from the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestine Liberation Organization’s DC office, and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights — all moves that Palestinians cite as showing preferential treatment toward Israel.

The Trump official on Thursday castigated the PA for refusing to attend the Bahrain conference.

“It’s difficult to understand why the Palestinian Authority would reject a workshop designed to discuss a vision with the potential to radically transform lives and put people on a path toward a brighter future,” the official said. “History will judge the Palestinian Authority harshly for passing up any opportunity that could give the Palestinians something so very different, and something so very positive, compared to what they have today.”

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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