#Palestine. The #US’s Middle East ‘peace summit’ is nonsense. Palestinians are right to boycott it

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أخر تحديث : mardi 25 juin 2019 - 4:08
#Palestine. The #US’s Middle East ‘peace summit’ is nonsense. Palestinians are right to boycott it

In the toxic history of the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinians have often been accused of “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. This familiar charge has been repeated in the runup to an extraordinary event taking place in the Gulf state of Bahrain, convened by the US and starting on Tuesday

The Manama “workshop” – downgraded from “conference” to lower already rock-bottom expectations – is designed to discuss the “Peace to Prosperity” plan unveiled by the White House on Saturday. The document, the result of two years’ work by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has already been subject to a torrent of undiplomatic abuse. Palestinians have made clear that they will not attend Manama – apart from the odd businessman prepared to defy a broad national consensus that unusually unites Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip

Trump’s hostility to the Palestinians and blatant bias towards Israel have been clear from the moment he entered the Oval Office: the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the slashing of aid to UNRWA (the agency that assists Palestinian refugees), the closure of the PLO mission in Washington and recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights have all been bleak and damaging landmarks. The president’s disruptive moves have undermined the longstanding international consensus that the only way to resolve the world’s most intractable conflict is to create a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel – thus finally granting equal rights to both peoples who are doomed, whether they like it or not, to share the Holy Land

Nor does the word ‘occupation’ appear anywhere [in the US deal], except with reference to occupational mobility

Property rights are mentioned, but there is no reference whatsoever to the illegal Israeli settlements scattered across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel appears a few times but only in a list of neighbouring countries. Palestine – as opposed to Palestinians – is not mentioned either. Nor does the word “occupation” appear anywhere, except with reference to “occupational mobility” – hampered on the ground by endless Israeli checkpoints

Illustrations show recipients of previous US aid that has been axed by Trump, including the Bereaved Families Forum, an organisation working for reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian victims of violence. Previous efforts to sell a vision of economic peace, by the past Quartet envoy Tony Blair or John Kerry, US secretary of state under Barack Obama, have failed – and are ignored. Dubai and Singapore are nevertheless cited as exemplary regional hubs

The understandable fear on the Palestinian side is that this rights-free approach is a precursor to Israeli moves to annex parts of the West Bank, with that likelihood signalled on the eve of the last election by Benjamin Netanyahu and echoed by David Friedman, the controversial US ambassador to Israel who has worked closely with Kushner

Palestine, as one senior PLO official quipped, has a CEO called Mahmoud Abbas, and Trump wants to break his back. And, yes, we may have lost the Americans but we have kept everyone else

Unlike the Palestinians, representatives of Arab states will be in Manama – though at a low level and only after apparently insisting that Israeli officials (as opposed to businessmen) would not be invited. The Saudis, Emiratis, Qatar and Kuwait will be there, as will Egypt and Jordan, feeling that given their dependence on the US, especially as tensions soar over Iran, they had little choice. Bahrain, after all, is home to the US Fifth Fleet. “What alternative did we have?” shrugged one regional diplomat. But that is still a far cry from the fantasy peddled by Netanyahu and apparently believed by Kushner and Trump, that the Gulf states – still sensitive to popular sentiment despite their autocratic nature – would openly abandon the Palestinian cause

Kushner himself said in an interview that “the current status quo is not a sustainable situation”. That is certainly correct. But otherwise his plan – money for peace replacing land for peace – is bizarre nonsense and as such has been widely and rightly rejected. Boycotting Bahrain is not another missed opportunity by the Palestinians, but instead signals a rare, determined and united effort to insist that their economic needs – real and urgent – do not trump their fundamental rights

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