Once again, never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Top Palestinian business leaders are following the lead of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and refusing to attend next month’s economic workshop in Bahrain, The New York Times reported Monday.
The report noted the objections of several prominent Palestinian businessmen. Their primary complaint echoed that of the PA: economic incentives cannot replace the necessary political elements of the peace process, the ending of the Israeli occupation.
However, Special Representative for International Negotiations of the United States Jason Greenblatt pushed back, asserting that the U.S. viewed both the economic and the political as essential for peace.
The Times reported:
Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that his government had not been consulted about the economic conference and that an end to the conflict “will only be through political solutions to end the occupation and realize the rights of our people.”
Palestinians, he said at a cabinet meeting on Monday, “do not trade our national rights for money.”
Zahi Khouri, who owns the Coca Cola franchise in the West Bank, made an almost identical argument saying, “You insult the people by talking about their quality of life when you keep them locked up,” referring to the occupation.
The Times report amplified the Palestinian complaint that the Trump administration was too pro-Israel:
Several businessmen said they simply did not trust the Trump administration, whose actions in the Middle East could have been scripted by Israel’s right wing. The United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the American embassy, closed the consulate that had dealt with Ramallah, cut aid to the Palestinians and to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, and pushed to deprive millions of Palestinians of their status as refugees.
The Times article ignored the fact that the PA has rejected the Trump administration’s pleas to stop incentivizing terror. In fact, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has frequently said that his priority is to continue paying terrorists convicted of killing Jews. He has even reduced payments to civil servants and to support medical care to keep the “pay to slay” program going.
Nor does the Times mention that when President Obama — who was a lot more favorably disposed toward the Palestinians — was in office, it was Abbas who undermined the administration’s peace efforts in 2014.
One Palestinian businessman, Ashraf Jabari of Hebron, has bucked the PA, and plans to attend the economic workshop in Bahrain, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The economic workshop should address the financial issues of Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan. The administration has sought an estimated $68 billion from donors.
The U.S. and Bahrain announced that the workshop would take place on June 25 and 26 in a joint statement issued Sunday.
“Peace to Prosperity” will facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region, including enhancements to economic governance, development of human capital, and facilitation of rapid private-sector growth. If implemented, this vision has the potential to radically transform lives and put the region on a path toward a brighter future.
Subsequently, Bahrain’s government issued a statement saying that it remains committed to Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.
Peace processors of the past mocked the administration’s efforts:
The Kushner team hope to appeal to Palestinians over the heads of their leaders. Still early days but the immediate rejection of the Bahrain Workshop by such credible business leaders as @BasharFMasri and @zahikhouri suggests a design problem. https://t.co/sh4YizJxib
— Martin Indyk (@Martin_Indyk) May 21, 2019
I mean when we were doing the peace process post Jim Baker (where we had some success) it took us at least several years to fail in each Administration. The Trump team is going for a new land speed record. https://t.co/5CyRsh5CTE
— Aaron David Miller (@aarondmiller2) May 21, 2019
Of course, their assumptions about how to achieve peace in the Middle East came crashing down when PA President Arafat rejected Israeli PM Ehud Barak’s peace offer at Camp David in July 2000. You would think people whose premises were proven wrong might, at least, wait and see what happens before criticizing a new approach.
In any case, once again, the Palestinians have validated Abba Eban’s famous formulation that “they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
The PA is crying poverty, and Trump is trying to jumpstart its economy. And they still say, “no.”
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