Considering the quantity of ridicule heaped on the conference convened in Bahrain by the US administration to unveil the economic elements of President Donald Trump’s Israel-Palestine “Deal of the Century” by “never-Trump” commentators and pundits, the meeting might reasonably have been expected to be a meaningless failure. However, in contrast to the critics, it appears that the actual participants in the conference felt that the plan described by Jared Kushner was well planned, complete and feasible, at least from the economic and financial standpoints, if not the political.
Not that all parties even read what was on the table, as both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas rejected all aspects of the proposal sight-unseen. A delegation of Palestinian businessmen did indeed attend the meeting, but since their return to the West Bank they have been met with official scorn, harassment and even arrest.
The meeting was anything but meaningless. On the contrary, several aspects of the conference may indeed mark a turning point in the Arab-Israeli relationship and the Israel-Palestinian confrontation. The gathering also marked the first time in history that Israeli and Arab businessmen and officials interacted freely and uninhibitedly.
Sympathy on the part of the Arab states for the Palestinian cause is at an all-time low. The Sunni Arabs have much more important things to worry about than the Palestinians; among them the Iranian threat, terrorism, and the necessity on the part of several of them to diversify their economies from a dependence on oil and gas exports. On all of these issues, cooperation with Israel has a great deal to offer, whereas the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have nothing to offer. Quite the contrary – Hamas is a bought and paid-for subsidiary of Iran and is itself a terrorist organization.
An additional and highly significant factor was almost totally ignored by the press and the “commentariat.” Mohammed Dahlan, fired by PA President Mahmoud Abbas years ago from his position of chief of security on the West Bank on phony grounds of corruption (a subject Abbas and his colleagues know much about), and who has been living in the United Arab Emirates since, endorsed the conference.
Dahlan is the favorite candidate of the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Egyptians and the Israelis to succeed Abbas, either through the death of the latter or by means of a coup d’état. When he was chief of security on the West Bank he had cordial and effective relations with his Israeli counterparts, and if and when he takes over the PA (if not Gaza), the “Deal of the Century” has a very good chance of success with the addition of the heretofore missing political factor.
Far from being a meaningless fiasco, the Bahrain conference may be judged in future to have been a seminal event of great significance.
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