By Dr. Nabil Sha'ath | Published in Haaretz on May 23, 2019
Our message to those attending the Manama meeting: Don't join the Trump administration's efforts to undermine our rights - we will never accept economic bribes instead of freedom
Palestine has officially announced that it will not attend the Bahrain "workshop." This decision shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Despite the fact that some have tried to present the Manama meeting as a purely "economic effort," White House officials have been clear that this is the first stage of their alleged "peace plan."
In other words, the Bahrain meeting is supposed to be an opportunity to showcase how much the U.S. administration are willing to use as a bribe in exchange for the Palestinians giving up their rights.
For the Trump team, the Manama meeting represents a strategic stage in their efforts to undermine both international law and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. But they are also dedicated to dismembering the Arab Peace Initiative, and to pivot away from Palestinians achieving their rights of freedom and self-determination to discussing Palestinians' "economic prosperity" - under Israeli rule.
Denying the political rights of the people of Palestine while claiming to preserve their "social" or "economic" rights is an old idea. It is the same idea that fueled Britain’s Balfour Declaration of 1917, and the concept of "economic peace" declared by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Not addressing Palestinian rights, even refusing to utter those very words, is only a recipe for further entrenching the Israeli occupation. President Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, has himself declared that settlements - over 650,000 settlers and soldiers fragmenting the occupied West Bank into hundreds of non-contiguous islands - are not an obstacle to peace.
Any economist can tell you the necessary conditions for economic prosperity. Palestine is a country with tremendous economic potential, including its highly educated human resources. But in order to reach its full potential, Palestine has to be able to control its economy, including its borders, natural resources and electromagnetic sphere, among others. Those are all Palestine's well-recognized rights.
As Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman has consistently tried to promote economic normalization between Israeli settlers and Palestinians. It is clear that all such efforts are not only opposed by the Palestinian leadership, but by the vast majority of Palestinians. Palestine's most prominent businesspeople have already declined U.S. invitations to attend the Bahrain meeting.
Some may claim that it is illogical to reject a "plan" that we haven’t seen. But the truth is we've seen a lot: From moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to defunding UNRWA, the Trump administration has taken a number of measures that are not only a violation of U.S. obligations under international law and commitments to the peace process, but are utterly immoral, such as defunding Palestinian hospitals.
The Trump administration dropped the term "occupation" from their official documents and stopped criticizing any illegal Israeli act, including settlements. It closing our mission in Washington as well as the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, turning relations with the Palestinians into a mere unit under the control of the U.S. ambassador to Israel.
The message from the White House is clear: The Palestine issue is not about national liberation. The real priority is the "Greater Israel" for which ideologues like David Friedman have worked so tirelessly.
Efforts at deviating attention from the core issues will not change the reality of occupation and exile that Palestinians have experienced for far too long.
The Bahraini government statement reaffirming support for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital is important, yet those who have decided to attend the Manama meeting should be aware of the Trump administration's true intentions.
The Manama meeting is one phase in a larger effort to undermine Palestinian rights and normalize Israeli violations, while promoting Arab-Israeli normalization. These have been at the core of the U.S. administration’s efforts.
These are enough reasons for Palestinians to say no to the Manama meeting. The rest of the international community should look at the facts, and understand the dangerous precedents that the Trump administration is pushing.
The White House is actively justifying Israeli occupation and colonization, by recognizing Israel's right to aquire land by the use of force, as it has for Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. This should be considered as a preparatory step for the further annexation of occupied Palestinian territory.
It is precisely because we believe in a just and lasting peace for our region that we say no to the Manama meeting. Only a political solution that ends the Israeli occupation and fulfills the rights of the Palestinian people, in accordance with international law, can promote sustainable economic prosperity. There can be no "prosperity" without freedom.
Dr. Nabil Sha'ath is the international relations adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and was Palestinian foreign minister between 1994 and 2005