Egypt, Jordan to ‘Symbolically’ Attend Bahrain Economic ‘Workshop’
US hopes investment in Palestinian Territories will pave way to peace, but others call for political steps
Despite Palestinian objections to the upcoming “Peace for Prosperity” initiative, the White House announced that Egypt, Jordan and Morocco would participate in the conference to be held June 25-26 in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s highly anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
The conference, dubbed a “workshop,” is expected to encourage investment in the Palestinian Territories as the economic aspect of the so-called “Deal of the Century.” As part of that, Washington is expected to put billions of dollars on the table earmarked for projects in the territories and aid for nations in the region.
“The American pressure on Egypt, Jordan and Morocco is obvious,” Ibrahim Haj Ibrahim, a Palestinian political science instructor at Birzeit University, near Ramallah, told The Media Line.
Ibrahim stressed that the three countries would attend without playing any real role.
“Their participation is symbolic,” he explained.
Ibrahim said, however, that it was important for these countries to attend the workshop, to debate the issues under discussion, and to make clear that the Palestinian cause was political, and not primarily humanitarian, as the American administration was claiming.
“They need to emphasize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” he stated.
Historically, Egypt and Jordan – which both have peace treaties with Israel – have been major sponsors of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has characterized the “Deal of the Century” as a “shameful bargain” that “will go to hell.” Abbas asserted that solving the Palestinian issue must begin with the political issues.
Palestinian leaders reject the American approach, as it focuses on urging Arab donor countries to invest in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip before anyone addresses the thorny political issues that are at the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, stated on Tuesday that the announcement of Egyptian and Jordanian participation in the Bahrain economic workshop came as no surprise, telling the press that both had special relations with the U.S.
“We cannot judge the circumstances that led to their participation, but we are sure that [their] participation will be symbolic, and not at a high-level,” he said.
He added: “We would prefer them to not participate at all, and for Bahrain not to host such a meeting, which is being organized by the ruling Zionist lobby group in America, allied with the far-right led by [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu.”
He expressed hope that “other Arab countries would not participate.” But last month, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced that they would attend the workshop in Manama.
Moeen al-Taher, a Jordanian political analyst and expert on Palestinian and Israeli affairs, clarified to The Media Line: “King Abdullah II made it clear that Jordan’s participation comes as Amman has to be in any conference regarding the Palestinian case. Amman’s participation is for the sake of being aware of and knowing what’s going on.”
Taher predicted that the conference might not take place as scheduled.
“The project of the Deal of the Century will be postponed until after the repeat election in Israel [in September, after which a new government must be formed]; the project has entered a deep freeze until next year,” Taher said, adding that by then, America would be busy with its own election campaign and no one would pay the initiative much attention.
Hasan Nafaa, an Egyptian analyst and political science instructor at Cairo University, explained to The Media Line that the three countries were going to Bahrain out of courtesy to Saudi Arabia.
“The Saudi kingdom organized the conference, but because of the Palestinian refusal to participate, the Saudis decided to hold it in Bahrain,” he explained.
Nafaa also stressed that their participation would not entail any real involvement, but would be more of a symbolic step.
“The American administration’s policy is in opposition to the Palestinian case,” he said, “and its ‘deal’ aims to end the Palestinian cause.”