This week, Bahrain is expected to host the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian “Peace to Prosperity” economic conference, where the White House plans to put forth its “economic vision” for Palestinian-Arabs living in the Palestinian territories. U.S. Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt expressed hope that the conference would facilitate an exchange of ideas about how to expand the struggling Palestinian economy.
The White House’s plan includes a $50 billion Palestinian investment and infrastructure proposal, which is projected to create at least 1 million new jobs for Palestinians. The investments are directed at Palestinians living both inside and outside the territories, including those in Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. The White House hopes to encourage Arab donor nations to invest in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Despite the economic aims of the conference, Palestinian officials have dismissed it, expressing that they will not attend what they believe to be a bribery scheme to force Palestinians to stop seeking self-determination through a Palestinian state. What is ironic about Palestinian demands for statehood is that Article I of the Palestinian Liberation Organization charter (the governing document of Palestinian leadership) makes no assertion of an actual state in Palestine, instead just of an “Arab homeland,” indicating a pan-Arab nationalism, not a distinctly Palestinian nationalism.
The charter states, “Palestine is an Arab homeland bound by strong Arab national ties to the rest of the Arab Countries and which together form the great Arab homeland.” Furthermore, there is none of the requisite “quid pro quo” that typically defines a bribery scheme. In other words, the United States expects nothing from the Palestinian-Arabs in return for our investments.
While leaders of the ruling Fatah faction have encouraged the Arab states to boycott the conference, the Trump administration has succeeded in getting seven Arab states to agree to attend the economic workshop, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Indeed, Bahrain’s agreement to host is alone an astounding achievement.
Boycotting a conference explicitly designed to advance the economy of the Palestinian people evinces a great deal about Palestinian leaders’ actual objectives. Such maneuvers reveal that Palestinian leaders have no genuine interest in improving the lives of their people, but are more vested in perpetuating their people’s suffering for political gain on the international stage.
In addition to pressuring Arab states to refrain from attending (or in the case of Bahrain, from hosting), Palestinian officials also pressured Palestinian businesspeople not to attend. Even so, they would benefit from the opportunity to meet with some of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds.
Palestinian authorities have stated that anyone who attends the conference will be deemed a “traitor,” projecting a culture of fear onto the meeting and forcing many Palestinian-Arabs to weigh the possible economic gains against the violent retribution Fatah, the governing Palestinian political party, has promised.
Fatah has also called for “days of violence” against Israel in response to the conference, which anyone with a modicum of political acumen realizes is stunningly obtuse, given the conference is geared towards aiding Palestinians and Israeli officials aren’t even in attendance. Indeed, out of a desire to avoid politicizing the event, the Palestinians’ decision not to attend prompted the Trump administration to refrain from extending a formal invitation to Israeli officials.
The Palestinian Authority also attended a “counter-conference” in Bahrain last week, titled “The Holocaust of the Century in Bahrain… Its Signs, Consequences, and Ways to Deal With It,” bizarrely applying terminology that describes Nazis’ genocide against the Jews to an economic conference with a $50 billion proposed investment.
The boycott and calls for violence rehash the same unproductive methods the Palestinians have used in the past to thwart peace measures, only this time the incoherence of the boycott is made more evident by the fact Israel will not even attend. Palestinian leaders continue to promulgate the notion that the workshop is some devious machination of the West or President Trump or both, despite many Palestinian-Arab neighbors agreeing to attend and host.
If anything, their attendance shows the Palestinian-Arabs’ gradual isolation among the Gulf States, who have grown weary of the Palestinian Authority’s political gymnastics and obsession with destroying their Jewish neighbors. Bahrain will prove another missed opportunity for Palestinian leadership to engage with their neighbors in a significant way. Palestinian leadership sees the political capital to be had in human suffering, so any attempts to mitigate such suffering meet serious skepticism from Palestinian officials.
Since rejecting the suggested partitioning the 1937 Peel Commission, Arab leaders have thwarted the creation of an Arab state west of the Jordan River more than six times, depending on whether one considers refusal to talk to mean refusing the possibility of a state. Thus, if anything is to be gleaned from the Bahrain conference boycott, it is that the Palestinian leadership does not have a genuine interest in bettering the lives of their own people—and perhaps that they are quite unprepared for actual statehood.