Palestinians snub Bahrain’s Deal of the Century conference with parallel summit in Beirut

Palestinians snub Bahrain’s Deal of the Century conference with parallel summit in Beirut
The PLO and PFLP will take part in a conference to discuss their future in Beirut at the same time as the widely rejected Bahrain conference.
4 min read
13 June, 2019
Palestinians want to take charge of their own future [Getty]
Two Palestinian factions have come together to host their own summit to discuss the future of Palestine, in a meeting that will take place at the exact same time as Bahrain’s Deal of the Century conference on 25-26 June.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) will host a summit in Lebanon's capital city, in what is an apparent snub to the upcoming Manama summit.

The Bahrain conference is seen as a betrayal by Palestinians and a symbol of Arabs endorsing the US' plan for the future of the Middle East, despite the Trump administration's notorious support of Israel's illegal occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem.

Senior PLO figure Azzam al-Ahmad confirmed he had arrived in Beirut on Wednesday to plan for the parallel summit.

He told official Voice of Palestine radio in an interview that Palestinians must do all they can to reject the Manama conference and squash any attempts to conspire against the Palestinian cause.

Al-Ahmad stressed that the Bahrain meeting is of no value and will not have any political impact and its outcome would be fruitless.

But despite his opposition to the conference, al-Ahmad refused to heavily condemn the Arab states, referring to them as his “Arab friends and brothers” in the interview. 

He said he believes Arab leaders are being pressured into carrying out this conference, despite a growing Arab consensus for normalisation with Israel.

Al-Ahmad's announcement came on the same day as another Palestinian Authority official urged Arab states to reconsider taking part in the conference.

"The Palestinian Authority urges Egypt and Jordan not to attend the Bahrain conference," Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority 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 long-awaited peace plan.

From home to diaspora: boycott!

The leader of the leftist PFLP also announced on Wednesday that his faction will be taking part in the Beirut summit. 

Maher al-Tahir emphasised that all Arab states must remember the Palestinian cause and to not be bribed into acting otherwise - hinting an accusation of Arabs selling out on the Palestinian cause.

"The Palestinian people are committed to their national rights and will not accept the liquidation of their cause," Tahir said in an interview with state radio. 

He called on all Palestinians, at home and within the global diaspora, to do all they can to boycott the controversial Manama conference.

"There is no force in the world that imposes on us something we reject," he asserted.

Tahrir added there may even be a silver lining to the Bahrain summit because it will unite Palestinians of all factions to prioritise their own rights and liberation.

Hamas isolated?

Meanwhile, Islamist Hamas group has not announced its participation in the Beirut conference, despite being vocally opposed to the Deal of the Century. 

"Our cause isn't for sale. We will not bargain our rights in return for economic or humanitarian aid," Hamas leader, Ismael Rudwan told The New Arab last month when he was asked about the Manama conference.

The group has thus far remained silent on the Beirut summit, not rejecting an invitation, nor announcing a boycott of it, leaving speculations that al-Ahmad has not invited Hamas to partake.

Al-Ahmad is staunchly opposed to Hamas, to the extent in which he vowed to "annihilate" them from the besieged Gaza Strip, which they won the rule of in the 2006 Palestinian elections.

Hamas spokesperson Sameh Abu Zuhri responded to al-Ahmad's comments, saying they "represent a declaration of war on the people of Gaza", accusing him of prioritising power politics and intra-Palestinian rivalries over unity for the cause.

Arabs endorsing Trump's deal

The Bahrain conference will take place on 25-26 June, against the will of Palestinians across the board.

It will focus on economic issues and is backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, despite a Palestinian boycott. Palestinians say they were not consulted about the conference.

The conference is part of US President Donald Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century" peace plan, the details of which have yet to be revealed in full.

The plan has been widely rejected by Palestinians because of Trump’s previous recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and expectations that the plan will recognise Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the West Bank.

Egypt and Jordan's participation at the Bahrain meeting is considered particularly important because they have historically been key players in Middle East peace efforts and are the only Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab