Report: Israel-Palestine; Prospects for Peace

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White House US Senior Advisor Jared Kushner attends the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, on February 14, 2019. (Photo by Janek SKARZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images) 

This month sees the “Peace to Prosperity” international event taking place in Bahrain, part of the United States’ new approach to resolving the Middle East conflict, and a key part of what President Donald Trump has promised will be the “deal of the century”.

The Kingdom of Bahrain, in partnership with the United States, will host the “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop in Manama on June 25th and June 26th. The workshop aims to bring together government officials, civil society, and business-people to exchange ideas, strategy proposals, and generate support for an economic, investment-led approach to securing and building upon a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel has illegally occupied the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since 1967, along with the Syrian Golan Heights and Lebanese Sheeba Farms. The US-brokered 1993 Oslo Accords aimed to bring about peace but were fatally undermined by forcing extensive concessions from the Palestinian negotiators, with the promise of the establishment of a Palestinian state, but failing to deliver a state, and Israel has continued to expand via the use of illegal settlers on Palestinian land in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip remains blockaded and has been subject by several Israeli massacres.

New Approach

The traditional approach to ending the conflict, the “two-state solution,” appears to have been abandoned by both Israel and the US. Israel has made its realisation virtually impossible through the settler movement, while President Trump’s unilateral declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital city forced the Palestinian Authority, usually keen to enter negotiations around state-building, to reject American-mediated peace talks.

“Peace to Prosperity” represents a more corporate approach to Palestine. A joint Bahraini-US statement said that the event will “facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region, including enhancements to economic governance, development of human capital, and facilitation of rapid private-sector growth. If implemented, this vision has the potential to radically transform lives and put the region on a path toward a brighter future.”

Bahrain Minister of Finance and National Economy Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa commented: “The ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop underscores the close strategic partnership between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United States as well as the strong and shared interest in creating thriving economic opportunities that benefit the region.”

Arab Perspective

Countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will participate the conference, to be hosted on June 25-26. But it has already been rejected by Palestinian officials and business leaders who want their political demands to be addressed seriously as part of any solution to the decades-old conflict.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas, the defacto rulers of the Gaza Strip, have called for Arab states to boycott the event. But the Saudi minister of economy and planning will attend, according to Saudi state news agency SPA, and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said Abu Dhabi also plans to dispatch a delegation.

Trump’s Senior Advisor Jared Kushner has been talking up the “Deal of the Century” and the Trump administration has been keen to gain support from Arab governments. Behind the American plan could be a desire to increase the contribution from oil-rich Gulf states to the Palestinian economy. Political details have so far been conspicuous only in their absence, including the fate of the seven million Palestinian refugees spread across the Middle East and wider world.

Saudi Arabia has sought to assure its Arab allies that it would not support any American plan that failed to meet the crucial Palestinian requirements for peace: including East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state; the right of return for refugees displaced by war and a freeze on illegal Israeli settlement building in lands claimed by the Palestinians.

Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism wants to see international efforts to end the conflict. However, this push by President Trump will not be able to bring about a lasting peace without addressing the legitimate complaints of those concerned. The Palestinians will have no choice but to reject any initiative that seeks to undercut their long-established and inviolable rights. This could mean the Trump administration faces a dilemma seldom faced by US administrations: to force the Israelis to make concessions or to accept that the American role in peace talks has exhausted itself. This could pave the way for genuinely neutral international actors to act as interlocutors in a new, more hopeful bid to bring peace and security to the people of Israel and Palestine.