Despite the majority Palestinian national consensus that the Trump plan is a consecration of Israeli occupation policies in its right-wing nationalist-religious form, Trump’s tripartite party, made up of Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman, along with some of his Gulf state leader friends, insist on inviting international and regional economic figures, including Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, to attend an economic conference or workshop in Bahrain on 25 and 26 June. This is under the theme of “Prosperity for peace”. This has been boycotted and rejected by Palestinian officials and people.
Trump’s team insists on not recognising the failure of their political approach to resolving the conflict and activating the so-called peace process due to the massive Palestinian consensus rejecting the foundations of the plan. This plan is based on ignoring the occupation and reinforcing the status quo, as cited by Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and over the Golan Heights. The plan does not address the traditional basis of the settlement process, i.e. the two-state solution. Instead, the team, described by the Palestinians as the far-right team, fled forward towards a new-old economic approach which is doomed to fail, as it is an attempt to propose “something” to fill the political vacuum and avoid looking like a failure until the American elections.
It seems that the conference is trying to repeat the previous failed experience in international aid, which failed despite the PA’s cooperation. The experience will be even more of a failure without the PA’s cooperation. The economic framework outlined by the Oslo Accords and supported by the World Bank under the title “investing in peace” or “economic peace” with a neo-liberal agenda actually makes the poor poorer and the rich richer. When this approach is under a military occupation, it results in annual losses for the Palestinian economy amounting to about $7 billion a year, equivalent to 85 per cent of the GDP. Moreover, given the Palestinian geographic and political fragmentation, this experience cannot succeed, and instead, would enhance the occupation’s political and economic dominance.
In other words, even if we assume it is serious and genuine, and not futile, as is the prevalent belief, the idea of the Manama conference is not different from the American view of its aid programme to the Palestinians. This appeared in a report by the US Congressional Research Service 2014 and it aimed at fighting so-called terrorism, i.e. the Palestinian people’s legitimate resistance, at supporting co-existence and promoting autonomy.
The American-Gulf announcement may involve a degree of exploitation and bickering with the PA and its President Abu Mazen, who the Americans have accused of disrupting Trump’s plan. This exploitation is especially apparent with the team’s announcement that the plan will include significant investments in the Gaza Strip, which, according to what a senior White House official told Haaretz newspaper, “will require a stable ceasefire agreement to remain in place.” This could be considered an “immature” reminder to Abu Mazen that the situation in Gaza allows for it to move forward alone in the ceasefire and economic prosperity, without his consent or partnership.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that holding the economic conference in an important capital such as Manama, completely backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in spite of the Palestinians’ rejection and anger, will increase the gap between the Palestinians and their Arab supporters on one hand, and the Saudi-Emirati axis on the other. We are also seeing rapprochement between the Palestinians and Qataris, which will only make the Arab position even more weak and fragmented, thus weakening the chances of a fair solution to the Palestinian issue. It will also allow Netanyahu to celebrate another political achievement in his way and method, by isolating the Palestinians and moving forward towards complete normalisation.
Hence, it seems that if the Manama conference is held, it will be futile and will have no positive political or economic effect on the Palestinian cause. On the contrary, it will reinforce the occupation and contribute to undermining the foundations of the traditional peace process. It also completely disregards the Palestinian people in a rude manner, and it can be seen as blindly following Trump and Netanyahu’s proposals, only making the Palestinian situation more complex, confused and divided.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 21 May 2019