The economic conference in Bahrain ended successfully and without the Palestinian Authority managing to undermine it or disrupt it with demonstrations.
Palestinians are saying that Mahmoud Abbas showed a lack of leadership and political weakness, and that, in light of the PA leadership’s severe corruption, the Palestinian public did not take to the streets as he urged.
The Bahrain conference ended with a clear American victory over Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who boycotted the conference but was unable to convince the Arab states and the Islamic world to stay away from it.
The PA chairman canceled the general strike that was scheduled for June 25, 2019, the opening day of the conference, and instead settled for three days of demonstrations and clashes in the West Bank. But his call, and that of the Fatah movement, to take to the streets evoked only a weak response. The Palestinian public in the West Bank is still seething over the severe cases of corruption among the PA leadership and is in no hurry to cooperate with it. The PA has still not canceled the inordinate salary raises of 67 percent for the prime minister and the members of the Palestinian government.
Abbas’ failure is now the prevailing topic in the territories, and it may well give the Trump administration a tailwind to begin to unilaterally implement parts of the economic plan that was discussed in Bahrain.
In seeking to thwart the Bahrain conference, Abbas did not overly exert himself; he seemed to understand that the game was over and he could not stop it from convening.
The PA has not come up with a national plan to counteract President Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” and is mainly engaging in condemnations and threats.
One of the problems preventing serious Palestinian opposition to the deal is that Abbas is neither willing nor able to achieve national unity and reconcile with Hamas, even temporarily, in an effort to undermine the deal.
On June 26 in Gaza City, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh convened all the Palestinian factions to protest the economic conference in Bahrain. In his speech, Haniyeh called on Abbas to meet with him in Gaza or in Cairo to coordinate actions against the new American peace plan, but his call went unanswered.
The PA was unable to pressure Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan to stay away from the Manama workshop and failed to organize an effective Arab-Islamic rejectionist camp against it.
Moreover, while the delegation of Palestinian businessmen headed by Sheik Ashraf Jabari of Hebron went to the Bahrain conference despite the rage of the Palestinian Authority, only one of them was briefly arrested and interrogated. Even though most of them live in the PA territory, the PA only made threats against them while taking no practical measure to prevent them from going – even though the PA said that doing so was “national treason.”
Senior Fatah officials claim that the PA chairman feared to clash with Arab states that sent representatives to Bahrain. The PA’s difficult financial crisis, precipitated by the cutoff of American aid and PA’s refusal to accept tax revenues from Israel, is having its effect. Abbas is pinning his hopes on the Arab League’s fulfilling its promise to provide him with an economic safety net for a few months that will enable him to recover and prevent the PA’s collapse.
The officials say Abbas is trying to stall for time to concentrate on a political effort against the Deal of the Century in November, after the Israeli elections and close to the date when the political part of the American peace plan will be published.
Until then, Abbas will mount a diplomatic campaign to organize an international conference that will include representatives of Russia, China, and the European Union, which oppose the Deal of the Century.
Corruption Corrodes Abbas Standing
The PA’s feebleness in the war against the new American peace plan reflects Abbas’ weakened status among his people. Whereas, on the one hand, he has been unable to score political achievements, Israel, on the other, has been racking up achievements in the international arena and enhancing its status. There is also great public revulsion in the PA against the venality of the government and the corruption of the top leadership.
Senior Fatah officials say that the corruption issue still dominates the discourse on the Palestinian street and the social networks. Abbas has not been able to change the civic agenda for the Palestinian public in the West Bank, and if he does not take visible measures against the corruption, an explosion is only a matter of time. The PA chairman is ignoring the warnings of the chiefs of his security mechanisms while counting on time to work in his favor. But the frustrated Palestinians may take to the streets and demonstrate en masse against a phenomenon of which Abbas and his two wealthy sons have become a symbol.
Israel and the U.S. Protect Palestinian Participants of Bahrain Workshop
Amid the criticism on the Palestinian street, Abbas ordered his security mechanisms to take action against the Palestinian business delegation that went to the economic conference in Bahrain. Over the weekend the members of the delegation returned to their homes in the West Bank.
In the early morning hours of June 27, 2019, the General Intelligence organization of Gen. Majid Freij raided the Hebron home of the businessman Salah Abu Mayala, arrested him, and confiscated documents. After American pressure, Mayala was released.
General Intelligence forces then besieged the home of another businessman, Ashraf Ghanem, for three hours but did not manage to arrest him. The General Intelligence forces had to retreat from the spot when IDF forces intervened.
Sheikh Ashraf Jabari, head of the Palestinian delegation to Bahrain, also lives in Hebron. Because his home is near the Cave of the Patriarchs, in the area under IDF control, the PA did not try to arrest him since doing so would be a violation of the Hebron Agreement.
Palestinian businessman Mahmoud Masad of Jenin said that he received a warning from the Shabak (Israel Security Agency) that Freij’s General Intelligence had tried to hire the services of an Israeli criminal from Haifa to assassinate him.
Masad canceled his trip to Bahrain and did not go with the other delegation members because of disagreements between them. Nevertheless, the PA declared him a collaborator with Israel and a traitor.
Among members of the Palestinian delegation who did go to Bahrain, there is great anger at the United States.
A delegation member said that the Americans had assured the delegation of protection against PA harassment and attempts to harm them and that they expected the United States to live up to its promise.
Fatah officials declared that all the Palestinian businessmen who went to Bahrain despite the PA’s boycott of the conference are traitors and will be tried and punished.
Criticism in the Palestinian street is leveled against the impotence of Abbas, who was unable to prevent either the Arab states from participating in the conference or the Palestinian delegation from going to it. “We should have arrested them before the trip and not after it,” said a senior Fatah official.