Palestinians reject US economic peace summit

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TRACKING >>The Palestinian leadership on Monday pushed back against a plan for an economic conference next month in support of Washington’s Middle East peace plan, saying it was not consulted and no party was entitled to negotiate on its behalf.

The White House announced Sunday it would co-host the June 25-26 conference with Bahrain focusing on economic aspects of the long-delayed peace plan, with the declared aim of achieving Palestinian prosperity.

“We were not consulted by any party on the announced meeting to take place in Manama, Bahrain,” Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement. “We have not mandated any party to negotiate on our behalf.”

A senior administration official in Washington told reporters Sunday that invitations to the conference are being sent to individuals in the United States, Europe, the Gulf, the wider Arab world and “some” Palestinian business leaders. The official spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement.

Palestinian minister Ahmed Majdalani told Reuters Palestinians would not send a representative.

“There will be no Palestinian participation in the Manama workshop,” he said. “Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel.”

Palestinian businessman Bashar al-Masri said he had been invited to the conference, but would not attend.

“We will not work with any event outside the Palestinian national consensus,” he said on Facebook.

The plan envisions large-scale investment and infrastructure work, much of it funded by wealthy Arab countries, in the Palestinian territories.

But officials say the gathering will not address the core political issues at the center of the conflict: final borders, the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees or Israeli security demands.

“Any solution to the conflict in Palestine must be political … and based on ending the occupation,” PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said at a Monday cabinet meeting. “The current financial crisis is a result of a financial war waged against us and we will not succumb to blackmailing and extortion and will not trade our national rights for money.”

The Palestinians, who severed ties with the US over a year ago, have repeatedly expressed fears that the White House will try to buy them off with large sums of investment in exchange for freezing their demands for an independent state. They believe the US is trying to rally support from other Arab countries to bully them into accepting a plan they see as unacceptable.

“Attempts at promoting an economic normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine will be rejected,” Erekat said Monday. “This is not about improving living conditions under occupation but about reaching Palestine’s full potential by ending the Israeli occupation.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the plan was doomed to fail if no political solution was included.

“Any plan without a political horizon will not lead to peace,” Abu Rudeineh said.

The Trump administration is expected to unveil the long-awaited plan — after numerous failures by their predecessors — possibly as early as next month, but the Palestinians have already rejected it as heavily biased in favor of Israel.

Washington has yet to commit to an exact timetable as concerns the political aspects of the plan.

On Sunday, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner said the Manama meeting would be an “opportunity to present our ideas for creating greater economic vibrancy in the region.”

“The Palestinian people, along with all people in the Middle East, deserve a future with dignity and the opportunity to better their lives,” he said in a statement.

“Economic progress can only be achieved with a solid economic vision and if the core political issues are resolved,” Kushner added. “We look forward to presenting our vision on ways to bridge the core political issues very soon.”

Kushner has promised new ideas for the plan, indicating that the Trump proposal will pull back from longstanding mentions of a two-state solution with the Palestinians and accept Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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