Palestinian leaders reject US proposal for economic workshop

Trump administration’s carrot for secret peace deal met with widespread criticism

Prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (centre)  told his  cabinet that Palestinians “do not trade our national rights for money”. Photograph: Alaa Badarneh/EPA

Prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (centre) told his cabinet that Palestinians “do not trade our national rights for money”. Photograph: Alaa Badarneh/EPA

 

Palestinian politicians and businessmen have flatly rejected the Trump administration’s proposal for an economic workshop scheduled for next month in Bahrain. The administration has pledged to raise tens of billions of dollars in investment to develop Gaza and the West Bank with the aim of encouraging Palestinians to accept a secret US proposal for a peace deal with Israel.

Prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said his government had not been consulted and contended that resolution of the conflict with Israel “will only be through political solutions to end the occupation and realise the rights of our people”. He told his recently installed cabinet that Palestinians “do not trade our national rights for money”.

Social development minister Ahmed Majdalani said that “any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator [with] the Americans and Israel”. The Hamas movement, which rules Gaza, has condemned the event.

Leading businessmen have refused invitations and dismissed the effort as an attempt to bribe Palestinians to accept the administration’s still-to-be-formally-presented “deal of the century” to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Billionaire industrialist Bashar al-Masri said: “I will not participate in this conference, and none of the representatives will participate. We reaffirm our clear position: We will not deal with any event outside the Palestinian national consensus.” Masri invested $1.4 billion in Rawabi, the West Bank’s first planned Palestinian city.

Saudi Arabia, regarded as a major investor, has said it will not become involved with the conference without Palestinian agreement. The Emirates and other potential investors are likely to follow suit.

Leaked provisions

The Palestine Liberation Organisation, government, and Hamas have rejected leaked provisions of the US administration’s political plan, which would grant Israel full military control of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians would have limited autonomy and no political presence in Jerusalem.

Palestinians demand an end to the Israeli occupation, and an independent state in Gaza and the West Bank with East Jerusalem as it capital. While this position has been adopted by the international community, the Trump administration seeks to provide an alternative.

Palestinians regard the US as hostile. It has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city, and cancelled more than $500 million in financial assistance to the Palestinians. This puts pressure on leaders to capitulate to the Trump deal which, Palestinians argue, would perpetuate and normalise rather than end Israel’s occupation.

Development without a political settlement has been tried before. Following implementation of the 1993 Oslo Accords and establishment of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian entrepreneurs, western, Arab and international donors created an economic boom by investing in infrastructure, industry, IT firms, residential and hotel construction in Gaza and the West Bank in the expectation of statehood by 1999-2000.

This never materialised. Israel continues to exercise control of the land, borders, economy and movement of goods and people. Israel’s 2002 invasion of the West Bank, 2009 and 2014 wars on Gaza, and constant military and economic pressures have prevented recovery and de-developed these areas.

The World Bank says: “The lack of progress towards peace and reconciliation creates an unsustainable economic situation.”

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