Former British prime minister Tony Blair and Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior White House adviser and son-in-law, hold a discussion on-stage (upper right) on June 26 at the US-led conference in Manama, Bahrain. (BNA - pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Assessing Bahrain (with VIDEO)

The economic workshop left few opinion-less – The Media Line looks to what is next

President Donald Trump has, for more than two years, been boasting that if anyone can bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s him and his administration. Since then, the Trump Mideast team – consisting of his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner; Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt; and American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – has either not been able to come up with a crystal-clear political plan on how to achieve the president’s vision – or fears the backlash from a flawed plan unacceptable will provide a premature end to the venture.

Last month, the White House finally revealed the administration’s long-awaited entry into the Middle East peace sweepstakes in the form of an economic vision, pitching it to politicians and investors from the Arab world and farther afield. What the White House Mideast team was able to come up with was a workshop in the tiny Gulf country-island of Bahrain that dealt only with the economic aspects of the conflict.

Now that the Bahrain workshop is over, reaction is mixed from Palestinians, Israelis and those who attended. Israeli officials were not invited, but former officials, business people and journalists attended. The Palestinian Authority boycotted the workshop.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Wiesenthal Center

“The US Government, the members of the cabinet, Treasury, the whole weight of the United States, is basically sending a message, not to the PA or Hamas, but sending a message to the Palestinian people. If you’re really interested in the future, we can help you and we will bring in the ‘A Team’ to help.”

“It couldn’t be a more explicit message to the Palestinian people…. If you want peace, this is what it will look like the day after you decide you actually want peace with your neighbors.”

Herb Keinon, The Jerusalem Post

“I think what they’re trying to do is trying to create a new paradigm. You know, paradigm is a word that everybody uses and I think they’re trying to do that. The whole concept we’ve had up until now is to throw money at the Palestinians, kind of as donors, we’re the donors and you’re the recipients. I think they’re trying to change that around and saying we are not going to throw money at the donors, we are going to be investors and take this whole investment paradigm and put it on the Palestinians.”

Charlotte Leslie, Director, Conservative Middle East Council

“You have to have an element of trust and you also, of course, have to have a willingness from the other party to do a deal; otherwise, you’re just walking into a brick wall. I think that perhaps a little more effort could be spent on gaining the trust of the interlocutors of this deal. The Palestinians have to be involved in this. They have to feel empowered and indeed be empowered in this mission to empower them. Otherwise it doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Jibril Rajoub, Secretary General, Fatah Central Committee

“I think the Bahrain workshop was a fatal mistake by the organizers and by those who hosted that workshop.”

“They ignored the issue of settling this conflict – politically, living conditions, which are so difficult…. This is coming as a result of the occupation. Removing the occupation with an economic track is reasonable, acceptable, and this is the rational approach.”

“We are still committed to the two-state solution, the only game in town. We are still committed to the political settlement. It’s the only way to assure regional stability, to assure historic reconciliation between Israel and the Arabs.”

Munib al-Masri, Palestinian businessman

“Unfortunately, the Manama conference is like putting the cart before the horse. I would have liked to go to Manama but the timing was not correct. We have to solve the Palestinian issue politically.”

“America has to be, and act as, an honest broker. They have to talk with Palestinians who know the situation. I think they are completely misinformed. Palestinians are the masters to solve their problem.”

“Since President Trump came, he changed the formula and he sided 100% with Israel.”

Hilik Bar, Israeli politician

“What we need to understand – and I think the Arab world and Bahrain and others understand it, [though] not necessarily Israel will understand it – is that… economic advantages [alone] or… [just an] economic effort with the Palestinians will not work. We cannot deny or hide the political aspirations of the Palestinians.”

“We have for 14 or 15 years, we have an Arab peace initiative lying on our table…. We didn’t say yes; we didn’t say no; we didn’t even reply to an initiative offered to us by 22 Arab states and 57 Muslim states, among them our biggest enemies. [The initiative] told Israel: Solve your issues with the Palestinians and you will have normalization with the Arab world.”

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