‘Slightly illusory’: Low expectations for US-led Bahrain workshop
As officials and businesspeople from the United States, Israel and several Arab states head to Bahrain for a US-led economic workshop on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, expectations for constructive outcomes are low.
The two-day conference, which begins on Tuesday and will see White House senior adviser Jared Kushner present the economic part of a long-awaited US Middle East peace plan, has been dismissed by analysts as irrelevant and unlikely to yield progress regarding the decades-long Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Egypt and Jordan have confirmed that mid-level delegations will attend the event, while the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are also sending officials. A delegation of Israeli businessmen was also due to take part.
But the Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, is boycotting the event.
"The workshop was meant to address the economic problems, but the real problem is the political one," PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday.
Hamas, which controls the besieged Gaza Strip, has also rejected the workshop, with senior official Ismail Rudwan saying: "Palestine isn't for sale."
On Saturday, the White House released details of its economic proposal, dubbed "Peace to Prosperity".
At its core is the creation of a $50bn global investment fund, that over the course of 10 years will be spent on 179 investment and business projects in the occupied Palestinian territories and surrounding Arab countries.
According to Kushner, who is also US President Donald Trump's son-in-law, the political aspect of the Middle East plan was intentionally separated and would be discussed at a later time.
But with the central political issues of the conflict not addressed, namely the 52-year Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and control of Gaza, analysts doubt the conference will achieve any breakthroughs.
The decision to task Kushner, who lacks political and diplomatic experience, with handling the Middle East peace plan was "astonishing", said Zena al-Agha, a policy fellow at the Palestinian think-tank al-Shabaka.
"Diplomacy and global governance are not financial questions," al-Agha told Al Jazeera. "They are questions of respect, dignity and political craft."
"If Kushner truly wanted peace, he would understand that funnelling money into this decades-long conflict is unacceptable for Palestinians who value their land, their rights and their dignity above all," she said.
Hugh Lovatt, the Israel/Palestine project coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said the US approach failed to address the causes of economic issues faced by the Palestinians.
"These causes are not economic and administrative as the US administration seems to indicate, but rather political and national in nature, resulting from Israel's occupation and restrictions of Palestinian territory."
According to a 2016 World Bank report, Israeli restrictions and policies are "the main constraint to Palestinian economic competitiveness", accounting for a lost growth of up to half of the gross domestic product.
The PA has also faced increased financial strain since Israel's decision in February to withhold part of the tax revenues it collects and transfers to the PA over its payments to the families of Palestinian prisoners.
In response, the PA has refused to accept any of the tax revenues, which account for around 65 percent of total PA revenue, triggering a financial crisis.