Palestinians say not consulted on Bahrain conference

By Agence France-Presse

The Palestinian leadership said Monday it was not consulted over an economic conference next month in support of Washington's Middle East peace plan and a prominent businessman said he had rejected an invitation.

The White House announced Sunday it would co-host the June 25-26 conference with Bahrain focusing on economic aspects of the long-delayed peace plan, with the declared aim of achieving Palestinian prosperity.

"We were not consulted by any party on the announced meeting to take place in Manama, Bahrain," Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement.

"We have not mandated any party to negotiate on our behalf."

The Palestinians have boycotted the US administration since President Donald Trump broke with decades of consensus and recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017.

They consider the eastern part of the city the capital of their future state and have shown little interest in the US peace plan, which they fear will be heavily biased in favor of Israel.

The Trump administration is expected to unveil the long-awaited plan possibly as early as next month.

Washington has yet to commit to an exact timetable on political aspects of the plan.

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is the chief architect of the proposals.

Sunday's joint statement from the US and Bahrain called the event a "pivotal opportunity... to share ideas, discuss strategies and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement".

The Palestinians see this as offering financial rewards in exchange for accepting ongoing Israeli occupation.

"Attempts at promoting an economic normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine will be rejected," Erekat said.

"This is not about improving living conditions under occupation but about reaching Palestine's full potential by ending the Israeli occupation."

Bashar al-Masri, one of the most prominent Palestinian businessmen who worked with international investors and Israel to build the new $1.4-billion Palestinian city of Rawabi, announced he had rejected an invitation to the conference.

"The idea of economic peace is an old one which is now packaged in a different way. As our people have rejected it previously, we reject it now," he said on his Facebook page.

"We will not work with any event outside the Palestinian national consensus."

The US peace plan is expected to feature proposals for regional economic development that would include Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.

The Bahrain conference could see large-scale investment pledges for the Palestinian territories.

But it is unlikely to focus heavily on the political issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlements.