‘Deal of the Century’: Economic Portion of Trump Peace Plan to be Unveiled at Bahrain ‘Workshop’
US administration will release at an unspecified later date the “core” political dimensions of the proposal
The White House will unveil the first portion of its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan at a “workshop” in Bahrain from June 25-26. The international gathering, titled “Peace to Prosperity,” will focus on the economic aspects of President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century,” with finance ministers from across the Middle East and Europe likely to attend.
Trump’s negotiating team is expected to put tens of billions of dollars on the table earmarked for economic development projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as financial aid to regional countries.
The US administration said it would release at an unspecified later date the “core” political dimensions of the proposal addressing, for example, the delineation of borders, the Palestinian refugee problem, and the status of Jerusalem.
Officials in Ramallah reacted swiftly to the news.
“The Palestinian people do not want to improve their economic situation [while] under occupation,” Ahmad Majdalani, Palestinian Authority Minister of Social Development, told The Media Line. He stressed that “there must be a political track first,” before revealing that the PA was not informed ahead of time about the conference.
“The Palestinian Authority was not invited,” Majdalani confirmed, adding that “our position is clear: we will not attend the US-led ‘workshop.'” He went so far as to refer to those participating in the summit as “collaborators.”
“The meeting will only be attended by Arab clients to America,” Majdalani said. “The talks aim to liquidate the Palestinian cause. Anyone there is working for [Trump].”
In this respect, the Palestinians are counting on the backing of Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and others that have assured PA President Mahmoud Abbas they will not endorse any plan that fails to meet his key demands.
For his part, Abbas has repeatedly refused to engage in any US-led peace initiative and has been boycotting American officials since Trump’s December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinian leader has called the prospective American plan “the slap of the century.”
Indeed, some analysts believe that Trump is offering up carrots before unleashing the stick, meaning the more contentious elements of the proposal that, according to the administration, will require tough concessions by all sides.
To this end, the US reportedly invited Palestinian business leaders to partake in the consultations in Bahrain. One of the most prominent of them immediately took to Twitter to denounce the American effort.
“I will not participate in this conference. Nor will representatives of our companies attend,” commented West Bank real estate mogul Bashar Masri. “We will not engage in any event outside the Palestinian national consensus. We are capable of advancing our economy without external interference and the idea of economic peace is an old one that is today being advanced differently.”
Senior Palestinian official Wasel Abu Youssef contended to The Media Line that the White House’s announcement was further evidence of its misguided approach to the conflict.
“It is quite clear that the Americans have failed repeatedly to introduce this scheme when faced with an absolute rejection by the Palestinian leadership,” he said. “The United States is trying to save face and cover its [fiasco] with this summit.
A spokesperson for Abbas’ ruling Fatah faction echoed the sentiment, telling The Media Line that supposed US positions remain unacceptable to the Palestinians.
“Any plan that does not adopt two fundamental principles – land-for-peace and international legitimacy – we do not accept and it is a waste of time,” Osama al-Qawasmi explained.
“Any economic project detached from the political track is unrealistic and futile,” he said. “The root cause of the conflict is the Israeli occupation, which must end with the establishment of the State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Senior Palestinian official Mustafa Barghouti believes the conference is proof that the US can no longer be considered an “honest broker” in the peace process.
“The deal of the century is not the solution and only gives legitimacy to what Israel is doing. We call on Bahrain to refuse to hold any meeting under this framework because it is a violation of the Palestinian people and their rights,” he said.
Meanwhile, Israel has not released any official statement regarding the summit. It is therefore unknown whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intends to send representatives to Manama.