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The Bahrain conference

May 22,2019 - Last updated at May 22,2019

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is pouring cold water on the US plan to convene a conference in Bahrain on June 25-26 to promote investment and business opportunities for the West Bank and Gaza, for fear it is part of the dreaded ”deal of the century” that President Donald Trump is contemplating for the Palestinians.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh flatly rejected the idea, saying that his government was not even consulted on it. Palestinian Social Development Minister Ahmed Majdalani went even further after a Cabinet meeting by declaring that “there will be no Palestinian participation in the Manama workshop. Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israelis”. Hamas followed suit. Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum emphasised that “we reject any economic and political steps that aim to implement the deal of the century or to normalise ties with the Israeli enemy”.

These are strong words from the PA and Hamas against an investment conference that business leaders and executives from Europe, the Middle East, the US and Asia are expected to attend. This premature negativism is unwarranted and has become a familiar pattern in the Palestinian thought that made things worse for the Palestinian people.

For starters, no one, including the Palestinians, knows for sure what this suspicious ”deal of the century” really looks like. Without having an inkling of what the US proposal for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis would look like, the Palestinians have rushed to reject it in toto.

Besides, a meeting to promote the economy of the Palestinian territories by inviting investments from the US, Europe and Asia could be as benign as it sounds. The Palestinians may welcome this initiative after all without endorsing the wider political implications. The Palestinian side would be better advised not to rush into taking positions that may hurt them, especially when the projected Manama conference as such is only a forum for considering improving the Palestinian economies in the West Bank and Gaza.

Welcoming the conference in Bahrain, or at least not impeding it, would provide the Palestinians with an opportunity to test the full implications of the initiative. Breathing life into the lifeless Palestinian economy cannot in itself be so bad after all. The Palestinian leadership cannot go on saying “no” to everything offered to them before examining the full implications.

The Manama initiative may not be such a bad idea before exploring it.

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