Palestinians urge Egypt and Jordan to reconsider going to US-led conference

RAMALLAH: Palestinians urged Egypt and Jordan on Wednesday to reconsider their attendance at a US-led conference on June 25-26 in Bahrain, voicing concern it would weaken any Arab opposition to Washington’s coming peace plan. The United States has billed the gathering as a workshop to boost the Palestinian economy as part of a broader diplomatic effort widely referred to as President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The participation of Egypt and Jordan is considered especially important because they have historically been key players in Middle East peace efforts and are also the only Arab states to have reached peace agreements with Israel.
But Palestinians are boycotting the meeting, saying Trump’s peace plan is likely to be heavily weighted in favour of Israel and to quash their aspirations for statehood in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli and US officials say Israel has yet to be formally invited, given discussions between Washington and Bahrain over what might be an appropriate makeup of an Israeli delegation.
“The Palestinian Authority urges Egypt and Jordan not to attend the Bahrain conference,” Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian government, said on Facebook after US officials announced the two nations, along with Morocco, would attend.
Melhem urged “all brotherly and friendly countries to withdraw”, adding that participation “would carry wrong messages about the unity of the Arab position” on rejecting Trump’s plan.
While the precise outlines of the draft plan have yet to be revealed, Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed about it say it has jettisoned the two-state solution. The plan faces possible delays due to political upheaval in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must fight another election after failing to form a government.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi said this month that Cairo would not accept anything the Palestinians did not support.
Tareq Baconi, an analyst with the International Crisis Group who is based in Jerusalem, said both Egypt and Jordan had faced heavy US pressure to go to Bahrain. “This is a significant disappointment for the Palestinians because it is a breaking of the ranks in the Arab region. Their call to boycott has not been heeded,” Baconi said. — Reuters