جاكسون ريشمان/جويش برس: أي نجاح سيحققه مؤتمر البحرين من دون خصور الفلسطينيين والإسرائيليين/عاموس هايل/هآرتس: مؤتمر ترامب في البحرين ليس كما كنت تتخيل/Amos Harel/Haaretz: Trump’s Bahrain Conference – Not What You Imagined/Jackson Richman/Jewish Press: Without Israel and the Palestinians, what progress can be made in Bahrain?

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Without Israel and the Palestinians, what progress can be made in Bahrain?
جاكسون ريشمان/جويش برس: أي نجاح سيحققه مؤتمر البحرين من دون خصور الفلسطينيين والإسرائيليين
Jackson Richman/Jewish Press/June 21/2019

Analysis/Trump’s Bahrain Conference – Not What You Imagined
عاموس هايل/هآرتس: مؤتمر ترامب في البحرين ليس كما كنت تتخيل
Amos Harel/Haaretz/June 21/2019

The Palestinians are boycotting and the Israeli elections got in the way. But one former U.S. diplomat sees some light at the end of the tunnel.

The Bahrain conference – not what you thought. Not much joy will come from this wedding, to which the Palestinian bride is absolutely refusing to come, the Israeli groom is sending low-ranking representatives and the guests are being asked to maintain as low a profile as possible. The way things are looking now, less than a week before the convening of the economic conference initiated by the Trump administration, it will be hosting mainly business people and the number of senior people in attendance will be very small.

The Palestinian Authority’s holding action against the conference has been only partially successful; Jordan and Egypt have knuckled under to pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia and have announced that they will participate. At the moment the official Palestinian boycott is total. There is no information about business people from the territories who have dared to defy the PA and intend to participate, and apparently rightly as far as they are concerned: They are refusing to enter into a move that is only about economic benefits when discussion of the diplomatic ramifications of the American initiative has been postponed to some undefined date in the future. Since the people of Trump’s negotiating team are coming from the New York real estate world, perhaps it’s necessary to hark back to an example from the distant history of Manhattan: It isn’t possible to ensure diplomatic progress in the region if all that they’re selling in Bahrain is beads to the natives.

To some extent the administration is losing the wind in its sails in the wake of Netanyahu’s decision to call a new election for the Knesset in September. Had there been any chance of advancing the diplomatic side of the “deal of the century,” it has been put in the deep freeze until the political situation in Israel becomes clear, towards the end of the year. At the same time, there’s some suspicion that the Americans have taken advantage of the crisis in Israel for their own needs. Postponing the timetable enables them to continue to conceal the details of their plan, which, going by everything that has leaked about it thus far, looks unripe. Since 2020 is an election year in the United States, it is possible that the deal of the century will not see the light of day. As in the farce of the town of “Trump Heights,” which was purportedly dedicated this week in the Golan Heights in an official ceremony that would not have shamed a skit by Ephraim Kishon, here too a huge gap yawns between the vision and the reality.

Still on the agenda are the economic promises of a better future for the Palestinians and their neighbors, and to these too it is necessary to relate cautiously. In his early days as president, Trump created a lot of noise in a visit to Saudi Arabia, in which promises of billions of dollars in arms deals were released into the air. To date, only a small part of them has been realized. The Palestinians, too, have already experienced conferences of donor nations, in which there was no connection between the numbers thrown around and the funds that ultimately landed on the ground.

Dennis Ross, formerly one of the top people on the Hillary Clinton and Obama peace teams, nevertheless tried this week to find light at the end of the tunnel. Ross, now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote that the main aim of the Bahrain conference should be the encouragement of stability in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in the context of the cut in salaries in the Palestinian Authority and the confrontations along the border fence initiated by Hamas in Gaza. Economic plans proffered in Bahrain could help with this, argued Ross, if only the Palestinian right to a state is somehow presented. Ross is right, but the trouble is that for now the administration is wary of this as though it were some terrible taboo, while the Trump people are scattering hints about their support for annexation of Areas C in the West Bank to Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has planned to cast a shadow on the conference by means of demonstrations and disturbances in the territories while it is underway in Bahrain. The IDF will beef up its forces in the West Bank to some extent in light of the possibility of violence. In the Gaza Strip, however, a certain calm was evident this week, with the arrival of the monthly shipment of cash from Qatar. In the coming weeks a number of important projects are slated for launching in the areas of electricity, water and sewage in Gaza.

However, the frequent outbreaks of violence testify that the situation is far from stable. Hamas frequently accuses Israel of violating the prior agreements. Either there is an expectations gap developing here between the sides or the agreements the Egyptian mediators reached were simply never fully sewn up. In any case, it appears that the Gaza Strip is liable to keep seething over time, as the escalation in the Gulf could prompt Iran to try to spur Islamic Jihad to escalate the situation in Gaza as well.

Without Israel and the Palestinians, what progress can be made in Bahrain?
جاكسون ريشمان/جويش برس: أي نجاح سيحققه مؤتمر البحرين من دون خصور الفلسطينيين والإسرائيليين
Jackson Richman/Jewish Press/June 21/2019
With both Israeli and Palestinian officials absent from an upcoming economic summit in Bahrain, how much progress can possibly be made at what has been described as the first step in the US administration’s long-awaited plan for Middle East peace?

According to American Enterprise Institute resident scholar and former Pentagon official Michael Rubin, “A donors’ conference absent Israelis and Palestinians would be a bit of an embarrassment. That [being] said, both economic integration and Palestinian self-sufficiency are keys to a better future, deal or no deal.”

Despite being told Israel would participate in the conference by the United States, Jerusalem has yet to receive an invitation to the event. Although the Prime Minister’s Office has denied reports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of “chasing an invitation,” it appears Netanyahu respects Washington’s decision on the matter, a senior Israeli official told Channel 13 News.

On Tuesday, however, Netanyahu indicated Israeli officials would be attending the conference, although he did not provide further details.
Nonetheless, news of the snub came as US special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt indicated the White House may delay the publication of the highly anticipated plan to November, to follow Israel’s second round of elections on Sept. 17 and the High Holiday season.
“I think there’s even odds as to which concludes first: The Trump administration’s ‘deal of the century’ or O.J. Simpson’s hunt for the real killer,” quipped Rubin.

‘One important pillar of their plan’
Responding to an inquiry from JNS, an administration official said the goal of the conference was economics and not politics.
“We will release a list of attendees closer to the workshop,” said the official. “This is a workshop where we will present our economic vision for the Palestinian people. As such, we want the focus to be on the economic aspect, not the political.”

According to Security Studies Group senior fellow Matthew Brodsky, Greenblatt and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump Jared Kushner recognized early on that for peace to be sustainable between Palestinians and Israelis, “they would, of course, need to address the core political issues of the conflict, but would also need to focus on an economic plan as well. They have repeatedly stated that both the political and economic plans are necessary in conjunction [with each another] and that they are designed to reinforce each other,” he said.
“In other words,” continued Brodsky, “this isn’t an economic workshop in Bahrain instead of a political plan, but one important pillar of their plan that can only happen in the context of a political solution.”
Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, dismissed the economic approach to the conflict.

“I don’t believe in the economic approach, so even if it were a successful conference, I think it would be unsuccessful,” Pipes told JNS. “Nothing is going to be successful economically. It’s rather a small amount in the larger aspect of the conflict.”
“Nobody is particularly enthusiastic about handing over tens of billions [of dollars],” he added.

In addition to Israel and the Palestinians, other major world powers, such as Russia and China, are not set to attend. The European Union will only send a “technical level official” to Bahrain, according to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who met with Kushner last week ahead of the conference.

Nevertheless, several Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, have said that they will attend.
“It is wise to encourage more moderate Arab stakeholders to help guide the Palestinians, rather than rely on countries like Qatar and Turkey, which fund extremism,” said Rubin.

But the Palestinians on Thursday boasted they had foiled the Bahrain conference by encouraging others to boycott the Trump administration.
In a statement to the Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, “Any meeting, whether in Bahrain or elsewhere and without the legitimate Palestinian endorsement, proves that Washington cannot and will not succeed on its own in achieving anything.”

Rubin cautioned the PA’s strategy was likely destined to fail.
“Previously, the Taliban, North Korea, and Iran have lost their bets when they gambled on the outcome of US elections,” he said.
“Even if [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas thinks he can do better if a Democrat returns to the Oval Office, he likely misjudges the mood both in Congress and in many Arab capitals, all of whom are becoming exasperated with Palestinian corruption and rejectionism.”