Just two weeks away from the long-awaited Bahrain Conference on Israel-Palestine, key Arab nations have yet to confirm their participation. The conference is set to take place in Manama, the island Kingdom's capital, on 25-26 June, as the US begins to roll out its vision for peace in the region.
Under the banner "Peace to Prosperity", the conference aims to "encourage investing capital in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region," according to a senior US official. Washington is preparing to reveal the economic portion of its peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — dubbed the "deal of the century" — during the Manama meeting.
Thus far, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have confirmed their attendance, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial institutions. The UN has agreed to send Deputy Special Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick from the United Nations Special Coordinator's Office to represent the organisation at the conference, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General said yesterday.
Palestinian businessmen and officials, though, have refused to attend, as have Russia and China. Iraq will join the Palestinians in boycotting the conference because the rights of the Palestinian people "must be protected," Iraqi spokesman Ahmad Sahhaf told Associated Press on Wednesday. Nor will Lebanon be attending, according to a series of tweets this week by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. "The Lebanese," said Bassil, "have not been consulted about a peace plan."
On Tuesday, US officials reported to Reuters that Egypt, Jordan and Morocco would be participating in the conference. None of these countries, though, have confirmed their attendance. In fact, Jordan is yet to respond to the official US invitation. As and when it does, the decision will be "in line with its principles, declared positions and national interests," an official source in Amman told Al Jazeera. Moroccan Prime Minister Saededdine Othmani, meanwhile, denied his country's participation in the conference and said that he "knew nothing" about it.
The Palestinian Authority has urged Egypt and Jordan not to go to Bahrain, according to spokesperson Ibrahim Melhem on Facebook. He called on "all brotherly and friendly countries to withdraw" as their attendance would "carry wrong messages about the unity of the Arab position" on rejecting America's "peace" plan.
Moreover, the Palestinians yesterday announced an alternative programme in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, to be held at the same time as the Bahrain conference, in protest at the US-led initiative, reported Al-Jazeera. According to a Palestinian official, it will bring together Palestinian political representatives and Arab individuals who "reject any economic bribe in exchange for the sale of Palestinian rights."
Israel has not received an invitation to go to Bahrain, as US officials wait for more positive responses from Arab nations before officially inviting Israeli participation. The Zionist state is not alone; Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Jarallah pointed out that Kuwait has also not received an invitation to the conference in Manama.
The US plan faces delays in the midst of Israel's political crisis. At the end of May, Israel's Knesset voted to dissolve itself, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a working government, triggering a new General Election. Scheduled for 17 September, Israel's political turmoil has put into doubt whether the US can roll out its "deal of the century" as planned.