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US-sponsored Bahraini workshop highlights Israel’s relations normalisation with Gulf states, unlikely to restart Palestinian peace process

28 June 2019
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Senior US presidential adviser Jared Kushner (left) sits with former UK prime minister Tony Blair (right) in a discussion during the economic ‘workshop’ in Bahrain on 26 June. Source: BNA - Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The United States held an economic 'workshop' in Bahrain on 25-26 June to present an investment framework of a future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. The economic plan was devised and presented by Jared Kushner, son-in-law of and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump. Although attended by official representatives of key Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar, no official Israeli or Palestinian delegations were present. The Israelis were not invited to the workshop and the Palestinian Authority (PA) officially boycotted the event. Private Israeli and Palestinian business figures did attend and made presentations during the event.

  • The workshop is highly unlikely to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The proposal of economic development before any political resolution is inherently flawed. It rests on the assumption that the ideology of armed resistance, which retains extensive popular support in Gaza and the West Bank, stems from economic deprivation. Additionally, much of the proposed plan, such as support for healthcare, better governance and education, is already under way, backed by European funds, and is producing minimal results. Finally, although an implicit aspect of the economic proposals, Hamas is unlikely to disarm, which is a precondition for Israel permitting transport links connecting Gaza to the West Bank, as is stipulated in the plan.
  • The most important aspect of the workshop was to underline the increasingly overt normalisation of relations between Israel and the Gulf states. Although no heads of state were present, and the Israeli delegation was not represented by political figures, the workshop was highly publicised by regional media. The refusal of PA President Mahmoud Abbas to send a delegation to the workshop will probably be used by the Gulf states, Israel, and the United States as evidence of an unwillingness to commit to any peace process.

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