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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations on September 20, 2017 in New York. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

No Love Lost: Palestinian Authority Boycotting U.S.-sponsored Middle East Conference

Mahmoud Abbas’ government reiterates its staunch opposition to any American-led peace initiative

The Palestinian Authority will continue its boycott of the Trump administration—imposed after the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017—by not participating in this week’s American-sponsored conference in Poland. The PA also called on Arab countries to shun the ministerial-level summit “promoting a future of peace and security in the Middle East,” which will bring together representatives of some 80 nations.

Despite receiving an invitation from Polish interlocutors, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat made clear that, “we will not attend this conference and we emphasize that we don’t allow anyone to speak on behalf of Palestine.” He described the event as an attempt to “bypass the Arab Peace Initiative,” which was proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002 and is deemed by Israel a non-starter.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is slated to offer a teaser of the White House’s two-years-in-the-making peace plan during a question and answer session at the February 13-14 confab. The PA has rejected the proposal out-of-hand as it views the U.S. team as favoring the Israeli narrative and fears the initiative will not designate the eastern part of Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state nor offer a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

“The official position of the Palestinian people as well as their leadership is that the American administration lost its credibility,” Asaad al-Owiwi, a political science instructor at al Quds Open University in Hebron, told The Media Line. He stressed that the current U.S. approach to the conflict deviates from past efforts that were grounded in international law and binding United Nations resolutions.

While the conference will focus primarily on Iran, it is being construed as a prelude to the unveiling of the American peace plan shortly after Israel’s elections on April 9. Moreover, it comes just days after Kushner announced he will travel to Middle East capitals later this month in a bid to garner support for jump-starting Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Kushner is slated to visit Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and is expected for the first time to reveal significant details of the proposal. The presentations reportedly will focus primarily on the economic aspects of the plan that are believed to include major incentives for the PA to re-engage in negotiations.

“What’s important isn’t the [lack of] participation in the Poland summit but the deterioration of the relationship between Palestine and the U.S.,” former Palestinian information minister Nabeel Amro explained to The Media Line. “The priority is to find a solution for the break and this requires the Palestinians to join all international forums that benefit its cause.”

At the same time, he added, the PA should still be attempting to make diplomatic inroads with Washington.

A widespread belief among Palestinians is that the U.S. is trying to secure a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world instead of focusing uniquely on ending the conflict. If so, this would defy the longstanding paradigm in which “normalization” with Israel shall only occur once a peace agreement is forged ensuring the creation of a Palestinian state.

Kushner will be joined in late February on his Mideast tour—which will not include stops in Israel or the PA—by lead American negotiator Jason Greenblatt, who Erekat last week blamed for “destroy[ing] any chance of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

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