Palestinians arrest businessman for attending controversial Bahrain conference

Palestinians arrest businessman for attending controversial Bahrain conference
Palestinian security forces on Saturday arrested a West Bank businessman for taking part in this week's US-led peace conference in Bahrain, which the PA boycotted, a Palestinian security source said.
3 min read
30 June, 2019
The controversial US-led conference in Bahrain was boycotted by Palestinians [Getty]
A West Bank businessman who attended a controversial US-led "peace" conference in Bahrain was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces on Saturday, a Palestinian security source said.

Salah Abu Mayala, a businessman from the city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was detained for taking part in the summit, which was boycotted by all Palestinian factions, including the PA, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The family of Abu Mayala, who is in his 70s and has health problems, said they had no information on his detention.

The security source said the Palestinian Authority (PA) had decided to arrest Palestinians found to have taken part in the conference, where US President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner launched a long-awaited Middle East initiative.

Contacted by AFP, the United States embassy in Jerusalem declined to comment.

The Palestinian leadership, which has boycotted the White House over a series of pro-Israeli moves including recognising the disputed city of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, insists a political solution to the conflict with Israel must come before economic issues.

But at least three Palestinians took part in the Manama conference, including Abu Mayala and fellow Hebronite businessman Ashraf Jabari.

Jabari, who is little known among Palestinians but has spoken before right-wing Jewish settlers, has said he travelled to Bahrain in the hope of boosting the territories' economy. 

Interviewed by the BBC at the conference, Jabari appeared to be sweating and repeatedly declined to discuss the PA's position. 

"We are not coming here to talk about politics. Politics are for the Palestinian Authority," he said through a translator.

A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday slammed the conference.

"The abject failure of the Manama workshop... is a clear message to Mr Trump and his administration that the policy of threats and intimidation no longer work," said Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

Jared Kushner, a White House adviser and the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump spearheaded the controversial conference in Bahrain which he said focused on jump-starting the Palestinian economy because the Middle East peace process needed a fresh approach after the years of deadlock on the political front. 

Read more: Comment: Palestinians are right to reject Kushner's plan. A gilded cage is still a cage

The 38-year-old Kushner unveiled a plan at the workshop last week that called for $50 billion in investment over 10 years and the creation of 1 million Palestinian jobs in what he billed as the "Opportunity of the Century".

However, the plan does not address the core issues of the conflict between Israel and Palestine: the contested holy city of Jerusalem, sought by both peoples as a capital; the fate of more than 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and the borders of a future Palestinian state.

General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouti said that he believes it is not a deal designed "for peace" and instead would "legitimatise the illegal annexation" of Jerusalem, the West Bank and of Golan heights.

"We cannot have economic development without being free," he added.  

The 10-year plan calls for projects worth $6.3 billion for Palestinians in Lebanon, as well as $27.5 billion in the West Bank and Gaza, $9.1 billion in Egypt and $7.4 billion in Jordan.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which governs the besieged Gaza Strip, have rejected the conference, saying that the US and Israel are trying to dangle money to impose a political settlement which will deny Palestinians their right to self-determination.

Thousands of Palestinians have also rallied across the country to protest the White House-led Middle East peace conference in Bahrain.

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