Palestinians reject U.S.-Bahrain peace plan as Israel advises 'surrender'
MANAMA, Bahrain – The Palestinians on Monday, June 24, vowed to reject a US-led peace initiative to be presented in Bahrain that dangles the prospect of $50 billion as an Israeli envoy bluntly told them they should "surrender."
Finance chiefs from the United States, oil-rich Arab states and international development institutions were flying to the tiny kingdom, which in a rarity is openly welcoming Israelis, who have forged an indirect alliance with Gulf rulers due to mutual hostility with Iran.
Led by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, the Peace to Prosperity economic workshop that begins Tuesday evening, June 25, is billed as the start of a new approach that will later include political solutions to the long intractable Middle East conflict.
It proposes raising more than $50 billion in fresh investment for the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors with major projects to boost infrastructure, education, tourism and cross-border trade.
The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the workshop, denouncing the plan for saying nothing about ending the Israeli occupation.
"This economic workshop in Bahrain is really going to be nonsense," Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told a cabinet meeting.
"What Israel and the United States are trying to do now is simply to normalize relations with the Arabs at the expense of the Palestinians," he added.
President Mahmud Abbas has said the Palestinians "will not be slaves or servants" of Kushner or other Trump aides.
"For America to turn the whole cause from a political issue into an economic one, we cannot accept this," he said.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, criticized the Palestinian leadership for declaring that the plan amounted to surrender.
"I ask: What's wrong with Palestinian surrender?" he wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times.
"Surrender is the recognition that in a contest, staying the course will prove costlier than submission," he said.
Denouncing both the "corrupt" Palestinian Authority and Hamas militants who control the Gaza Strip, Danon noted that Palestinian unemployment remained stubbornly high despite years of international assistance.
"Given this woeful state of affairs, it is self-evident that the Palestinian people need a new course of action," Danon wrote, charging that Palestinian national identity was "motivated not by building a better life for its people but by destroying Israel."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spoken of annexing parts of the West Bank, also took the Palestinians to task.
"I don't understand how the Palestinians rejected the plan even before knowing what it contained," Netanyahu said Sunday, June 23, as he hosted Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton.
"That's not how you move forward," Netanyahu said.
The Trump administration says it will later release political proposals – perhaps as late as November once Israel holds new elections and forms a government.
But Trump officials have hinted their approach will not mention the creation of an independent Palestinian state, a goal of US diplomacy for decades.
The Palestinian Authority is facing growing financial strains as it refuses to accept tax revenue collected on its behalf by Israel because the Jewish state is deducting millions of dollars that went to prisoners in Israeli jails or their families.
Arab League finance ministers on Sunday renewed a pledge to pay $100 million a month to the Palestinian Authority to stabilize its finances.
But in an implicit rebuke to the US approach, they insisted on "complete Arab support to the Palestinian state's economic, political and financial independence."
Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir said the Bahrain workshop "is not about buying peace."
"In no way is this about forcing the Palestinians to accept an agreement that they don't like and to draw a connection – you accept this and you'll get that," he told Le Monde on a visit to France.
The promises of massive investment come months after the US Agency for International Development suspended its work in the Palestinian territories due to US legislation that makes US aid recipients liable to anti-terrorism lawsuits.
The Trump administration has also ended all funding to the UN agency that provides education, medicine and food to Palestinian refugees and has taken a series of landmark decisions on behalf of Israel.
In December 2017, Trump recognized bitterly disputed Jerusalem as Israel's capital, leading the Palestinians to cut off contact with the United States.
Aaron David Miller, a veteran US negotiator on the Middle East, said the idea of a major economic plan for the Palestinians was not new.
"Had Trump administration not spent the last two years waging an economic/political pressure campaign against the Palestinians and undermined their aspirations on statehood/Jerusalem, the plan would have made sense," he said. – Rappler.com