Peace for Prosperity, the so-called international conference promoted, with great fanfare, by Washington, and the personal brainchild of Senior Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner, started rather ingloriously in Bahrain, and has concluded without any results.
According to its organizers, it was to have launched the initial stage (i.e. the economic programme) of the “Deal of the Century”, developed by the USA and Israel to force the Palestinians into final submission. In developing the Peace for Prosperity plan, the US president’s son-in-law was supported by Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump’s Special Representative for International Relations, and David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel.
Other participants in this so-called international conference included a number of businessmen from Persian Gulf nations, Israel and the USA. The conference was addressed by such luminaries as Christine Lagarde, chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund, Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, Gianni Infantino, the head of FIFA, and representatives of the World Bank. Saudi Arabia and the UAE sent a number of ministers to the event, Egypt and Jordan, the only countries in the region to have signed a peace agreement with Israel, just sent acting finance ministers, and Europe sent, in the words of one diplomat, speaking to the Economist, “the lowest level of representation that wouldn’t be offensive.”
The Palestinians categorically refused to take part in this get-together in which a group of politicians “solved” all their problems in accordance with an agenda dictated by America and Israel. The Palestinian leadership (the PLO, HAMAS) boycotted the Bahrain conference entirely, and Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the PLO, said that the deal could “go to hell”. In a survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, almost 90% of Palestinians refused to support the so-called “Deal of the Century”. And a declaration issued by the UN accuses the White House of trying to sell “a mirage of economic prosperity” which will only perpetuate the Palestinians’ dependence on foreign support.
In a letter to national leaders taking part in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Mecca, the Iranian President Hasan Rouhani described the USA’s so-called “Deal of the Century” to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine as “… a conspiracy to destroy the Palestinian cause, and promote occupation and aggression against all Islamic countries.” He added: “At a time when the Muslim world needs maximum solidarity, convergence and cooperation in the face of a common enemy, we are unfortunately witnessing some divisive measures aimed at diverting the Muslim world’s public opinion from the Palestinian issue as the main issue of the Muslim world.”
In the Arab press commenters are, with increasing frequency, calling on leaders of Islamic states to support each other in following a path of Islamic unity and not to let enemies distract public opinion in the Islamic community from the tragic fate of the oppressed Palestinian people and the threat posed by the Israeli regime. The current US administration has demonstrated its hostility to the Islamic world in a number of decisions: it has recognized Al-Quds (or the Holy City, as Jerusalem is known in Arabic) as the capital of the Israeli state, it has relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Al-Quds, and it has recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. As commenters in the Arab press point out, Washington’s actions are in breach of international rules of conduct, and all the resolutions and decisions of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. In particular, they consider the US-brokered deal to be dangerous because its authors are seeking to deprive the Palestinians of their right to determine their own destiny and create an independent Palestinian state.
“The huge demonstrations that marked Al Quds day this year are a sign that this ‘Deal of the Century’ is doomed to failure, and those Arab leaders that support the Zionist regime will be put to shame,” said Eshaq Kouhshahi, first Vice Prime Minister of Iran. He also added that at that historical moment, US President Donald Trump had announced his much-vaunted deal, which is in breach of all international agreements and pacts, in order to deprive the Palestinian people of their rights.
In that context, it should be remembered that the Palestinians refused to accept the USA as an intermediary in peace talks with Israel at the end of 2017, after Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Accusing the US President of being biased towards their opponents and of undermining in advance any peace initiatives that the latter might make, the Palestinians are talking to other foreign partners in an attempt to agree on a new collective format for regulating the conflict, perhaps something similar to the mechanism adopted by the European Union to resolve the Iranian nuclear deadlock.
The far-from-transparent Bahrain conference provoked many demonstrations in support of the Palestinians’ legitimate rights, in a number of Arab countries. For example, a crowd of Iraqi demonstrators even broke into the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad to protest against the decisions made in the Bahrain conference. Videos on social media sites showed some of the demonstrators trying to break into the embassy and take down the Bahraini flag from its roof. After the protests, Bahrain recalled its ambassador from Iraq for consultations.
Maher al-Taher, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Dawood Shihab, member of the Political Bureau of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, took part in a press conference on the much-criticized Bahrain conference. Describing the deal as having been planned in Israel and brought to life by US President Donald Trump with financial support from reactionary Arabic regimes, both Palestinians declared that all Palestinian groups, including the Palestinian leadership, were united in categorically rejecting the plan in full. They also dismissed the White House’s promise financial support for Palestine, including $50 billion to promote the development of its economy, as “lies” and “a ploy”, and declared that both organisations would continue to resist until they achieved total victory. The two leaders added that, the next step, after defeating the “Deal of the Century”, would be for Palestine to do all it could to overturn the Oslo Agreement, put an end to the recognition of Israel as a state and to all cooperation on security issues with the Zionist regime. They also emphasized that the deal was intended solely to protect Israel’s security in the region.
In an article in the journal Foreign Policy, entitled Economic Band-Aids Won’t Bring Peace to the Middle East, Muriel Asseburg of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, and Hugh Lovatt of the European Council on Foreign Relations, argue that “European leaders should not lend support to a Trump administration plan that dangles economic carrots to Palestinians while entrenching the Israeli occupation.”
And what about Jared Kushner, the main architect behind the Bahrain meeting? What did he have to say? With typical insincerity he described the get-together as a “tremendous success”.
The question is, success for whom?