A STRANGE series of events has been unfolding over the past few days in the Gulf state of Bahrain. Gathered here — under the watchful eye of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East point man Jared Kushner — an assortment of American and Arab officials have presented grandiloquent visions of a golden future for the Palestinian people. Dubbed the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop, the participants envision investing billions of dollars in Gaza and the West Bank, turning Gaza into an Arab version of Singapore, and granting the occupied territories lollipops like 5G internet coverage. However, the irony that the Palestinians themselves remained absent from the event has been lost on no one. The Palestinian side boycotted the Manama workshop as both Hamas and Fatah have been united in their criticism that this talk of economic prosperity is but a smokescreen, designed to obfuscate the core issue: a just political settlement that seeks to establish a viable Palestinian state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said a political solution to the Palestine question must precede all other matters, while the PLO has observed that Trump & Co want to sell the “mirage of economic prosperity”.
Some defenders of the Manama event have said, rather naively, that there is no harm in discussing an economic revitalisation plan for Palestine. Yet even Mr Kushner has said that a “fair political solution” is required to the Arab-Israeli question, though adding that that such a solution would come later. The problem is that these promises of an economic bonanza sound hollow because they fail to address the central issue: the brutal Israeli occupation. The fact is the Palestinians are suffering from financial problems because of Israel’s strangulation of their society and economy. From the looks of it, the ‘deal of the century’, now rechristened the ‘opportunity of the century’, appears to be a multibillion-dollar bribe to the Palestinians to forget Jerusalem, forget the right of return, and forget the dismantling of illegal Israeli settlements. The road to dialogue should always be kept open, yet this dialogue must promise to secure the human and political rights of the Palestinians, and end the demeaning treatment being meted out to the latter by Tel Aviv. The Palestinians should be saluted for resisting the immense pressure being exerted by the US, and their well-heeled Arab ‘brothers’, to participate in such a dubious venture. Clearly, the Palestinian side has emphasised that their land — and dignity — is not for sale.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2019