If only the Yazidis or Baluchis or Kurds or Rohingya Muslims were so lucky

June 27, 2019

In protests organized by the western-funded Palestinian Authority against an enormous $50 billion aid and investment package to help boost the Palestinian economy -- said to be the biggest financial offer of its kind anywhere in the world since the Marshall Plan -- a Palestinian man tramples on posters prepared by the Palestinian Authority.

Virtually the entire Arab world has welcomed the US plan, whereas the corrupt and wealthy despots that govern the West Bank (Fatah) and Gaza (Hamas) have rejected it outright.



[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach a video from the international Turkish channel TRT World, in which I debate the US-Arab “Peace to Prosperity” conference in Bahrain, with Ali Abunimah, the founder of the anti-Israel “Electronic Intifada” website and with Debra Shushan, the Director of “Americans for Peace Now”.

As I said, the poor starving millions in Yemen, or the Syrian Sunnis, or the Rohingya Muslims could only dream of such aid and attention.

Extracts: https://youtu.be/F66eYPkxr38

Full debate: https://youtu.be/xUuRTkpayn4



As David Horovitz says in the Times of Israel:

The U.S. Peace to Prosperity program is, in theory, hugely beneficial for the Palestinians, promoting an end to victimhood and a route to empowerment. It sets out a framework for a revolutionary improvement in the daily lives of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It also indicates empathy with Palestinian national aspirations.

While not endorsing independent Palestinian statehood, neither does the plan negate it. Indeed, its authors have made clear that a mutually acceptable political resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a precondition for this vision of economic revolution.


Or as been pointed out by a guest on the Paris-based channel France 24: “The Palestinians are being offered five times more than what it took to reconstruct Japan after World War II. If they stop sinking money into terror tunnels and corruption, they can have Singapore in Gaza.”


Below, I attach three articles about the conference, from Haaretz, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. After that, a piece in the Times of Israel: “Bahrain FM: Israel is here to stay, and we want peace with it,” and then extracts from two other items.

-- Tom Gross



It Won’t Bring Peace, but the Bahrain Conference Is Still Important
* Just by taking place, Jared Kushner’s conference has moved the needle against the Palestinians and in the direction of Netanyahu’s vision for the Middle East
By Anshel Pfeffer
June 26, 2019

The “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop currently taking place in Bahrain is important. Not because it will lead to peace: it won’t. And most of the dismissiveness about it has been justified. As one Palestinian leader said, “It’s a technocrats’ conference.” No decisions will be made there and the glossy realtors’ prospectus prepared by Jared Kushner’s team for the event is a copy-paste job, plagiarized from previous failed initiatives, totally devoid of any context or connection to the reality on the ground.

But the Bahrain gathering, which ends Wednesday, is still important. For the first time, official representatives of a significant number of Sunni Arab states will be openly attending an international conference on resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. They will be doing so against the express wishes of the Palestinians, and not one of the cardinal Palestinian demands – statehood, Jerusalem, borders, refugees – will be on the conference’s official agenda.

Yes, some of the Arab governments are attending only after significant pressure from the Trump administration. And they have reiterated in advance that peace can only be reached through recognizing the Palestinians’ national aspirations.

To signal their dissatisfaction with the agenda, most countries have sent no rank higher than deputy minister. But they are there, at an international conference on the Palestinians, without the Palestinians’ participation. And it is being hosted by and in an Arab country. In public.

So no, it won’t bring peace. But just by taking place, the economic workshop has moved the needle in a major way against the Palestinians and in the direction of Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision for the region.

Throughout his entire career – as early as his days as a freelance Israeli propagandist in the United States, even before he was officially employed as a diplomat – Netanyahu promised that the day would come when the Arab states would choose relations with Israel over championing the Palestinian cause.

Danny Danon, the man who serves in the post that Netanyahu held 32 years ago (Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations), wrote in the New York Times this week that the Palestinians should “surrender.”

Netanyahu has never called for their surrender because, as far as he has ever been concerned, the Palestinians will simply be left with no choice once their Arab brothers abandon them. And Bahrain brings him closer to that objective.

For Netanyahu, it is Israel’s grand strategy; for most of the Arab states, it’s a matter of expediency.

A year ago, on his grand tour of the United States, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a group of Jewish leaders privately that he and like-minded leaders in the Gulf were conducting a series of surveys to try to assess the views of the wider Arab public. They hoped to find that the “Arab street” was not as pro-Palestinian as some believe, and that it would be willing to accept a gradual normalization of ties with Israel. As far as most Arab leaders are concerned, the main obstacle to closer relations with Israel is the fear of a possible public backlash. If it wasn’t for that, they would have come out into the open years ago.

There is no question that, from their perspective, a security alliance with Israel against Iran – preferably with American backing – coupled with trade and tech sales, are more important than any notion of solidarity with the Palestinians. But for now at least, the public mood is shifting only gradually, so lip service to Palestinian aspirations and token resistance to “normalization” continue. Which is why the event in Bahrain is so important: It’s another sign of Arab leaders bringing the burgeoning secret relationship into the open.

This doesn’t necessarily spell ultimate disaster for the Palestinians. Their nosedive down to the bottom of the global agenda is not yet final. Kushner and the rest of President Donald Trump’s Middle East team may all be gone in 18 months and the next U.S. administration could reverse their policies. The Europeans may sort out their own internal problems and become a diplomatic force again. The Arab leaders’ calculations could change. Israel may yet come under pressure once again to make concessions and the two-state solution could be back on the table.

But that is all in an uncertain future. For now, Bahrain is happening.



What’s Wrong With Palestinian Surrender?
By Danny Danon
June 22, 2019
New York Times

The “economic workshop” in Bahrain this week, a summit of business leaders and political figures, is the first step in the rollout of the Trump administration’s long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. However, because the plan offers a new approach, many on the Palestinian side, including President Mahmoud Abbas and the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, say that the plan is dead on arrival and that engaging with it is tantamount to a Palestinian declaration of surrender. I ask: What’s wrong with Palestinian surrender?

Surrender is the recognition that in a contest, staying the course will prove costlier than submission. Applied to the Israeli-Palestinian context, Mr. Erekat takes the inverse position: Negotiating with Israel is costlier to the Palestinian people than the Palestinian Authority’s current political and economic policies. This is an absurd viewpoint.

More than 20 years after the Oslo Accords began what was supposed to be a foundation for a lasting peace process, the Palestinian body politic is bifurcated, perhaps irreparably. In the West Bank, Mr. Abbas, who is in his 80s, is still serving the four-year term he was elected to in 2005 and presides over a Palestinian Authority so corrupt that according to at least one poll, more than 90 percent of Palestinians distrust it. The Gaza Strip is run by Hamas, a terrorist organization with its ideological roots in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, its tactical playbook drawn from Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, and much of its financial support from Iran.

Unemployment among Palestinians is north of 30 percent, including over 50 percent in Gaza. Encouraged by the United Nations and the international community, millions of Palestinians are kept in perpetual refugee status around the world, with host countries unable or unwilling to absorb them. And the international community continues to shower the Palestinians with some $2.3 billion in development aid annually – more than most countries receive.

Given this woeful state of affairs, it is self-evident that the Palestinian people need a new course of action.

Yet Mr. Erekat and the Palestinian leadership choose to stay the course and reject the term “surrender.” In doing so, they expose the uncomfortable truth about the Palestinian national identity: It is motivated not by building a better life for its people but by destroying Israel.

The words a country uses in its official statements and founding documents speak volumes about its animating ethos. The United States’ Declaration of Independence enshrines the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” France’s national motto is “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Israel’s own Declaration of Independence speaks about “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate in their own sovereign State.”

In contrast to these Western national ethoses, the charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a precursor to the Palestinian Authority, states its “mottos” as “national unity, national mobilization, and liberation” and talks about the “basic conflict that exists between the forces of Zionism and of imperialism on the one hand, and the Palestinian Arab people on the other.” Palestinian leaders have rejected multiple peace overtures, launched intifadas and wars, and sponsored countless acts of terrorism in adherence to this belief.

With this national ethos, negotiating without the explicit endorsement of a Palestinian state is seen as a rejection of the Palestinian national identity, and an acknowledgment that Israel and the Jewish people are here to stay. In short, for Mr. Abbas and Mr. Erekat, this approach is akin to national suicide.

Yet a national suicide of the Palestinians’ current political and cultural ethos is precisely what is needed for peace. The belief that the Jews have no right to the land and Israel is to be destroyed, which engenders a culture of hate and incitement, needs to end.

Mr. Erekat misleadingly suggests that a “surrender” will lead to an end of the Palestinian people. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, surrendering will create the opportunity to transform Palestinian society, thereby leading to his people’s liberation.

The United States did not eradicate the German and Japanese people after their surrender in World War II, but instead helped transform them from imperial military powers to what are today among the world’s leading economic powerhouses. In the Middle East, following defeat in four conventional wars between 1948 and 1973, Egypt surrendered the idea that it could wipe Israel from the region, and President Anwar Sadat chose peace, which Israel was ready to accept. After the 1979 peace agreement, Egypt became a favored recipient of American foreign and military aid, and the beneficiary of an influx of Western investment.

There is no reason to believe a Palestinian declaration of surrender could not lead to a similar transformation.

The Palestinians have little to lose and everything to gain by putting down the sword and accepting the olive branch. Israel awaits the emergence of a Palestinian Anwar Sadat, a leader who is willing to do what is best for his people – a leader who recognizes that building a bright future requires surrendering a dark past.

Danny Danon is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.



Take the Palestinians’ ‘No’ for an Answer
They’ve rejected every peace initiative. Their no-show this week in Bahrain should be the last.
By Eugene Kontorovich
The Wall Street Journal
June 24, 2019

This week’s U.S.-led Peace to Prosperity conference in Bahrain on the Palestinian economy will likely be attended by seven Arab states – a clear rebuke to foreign-policy experts who said that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the Golan Heights as Israeli territory would alienate the Arab world. Sunni Arab states are lending legitimacy to the Trump administration’s plan, making it all the more notable that the Palestinian Authority itself refuses to participate.

The conference’s only agenda is improving the Palestinian economy. It isn’t tied to any diplomatic package, and the plan’s 40-page overview contains nothing at odds with the Palestinian’s purported diplomatic goals. Some aspects are even politically uncomfortable for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Given all that, the Palestinian Authority’s unwillingness to discuss economic opportunities for its own people, even with the Arab states, shows how far it is from discussing the concessions necessary for a diplomatic settlement. Instead it seeks to deepen Palestinian misfortune and use it as a cudgel against Israel in the theater of international opinion.

This isn’t the first time the Palestinians have said no. At a summit brokered by President Clinton in 2000, Israel offered them full statehood on territory that included roughly 92% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, along with a capital in Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority rejected that offer, leading Israel to up it to 97% of the West Bank in 2001. Again, the answer was no. An even further-reaching offer in 2008 was rejected out of hand. And when President Obama pressured Israel into a 10-month settlement freeze in 2009 to renew negotiations, the Palestinians refused to come to the table.

After so many rejections, one might conclude that the Palestinian Authority’s leaders simply aren’t interested in peace. Had they accepted any of the peace offers, they would have immediately received the rarest of all geopolitical prizes: a new country, with full international recognition. To be sure, in each proposal they found something not quite to their liking. But the Palestinians are perhaps the only national independence movement in the modern era that has ever rejected a genuine offer of internationally recognized statehood, even if it falls short of all the territory the movement had sought.

The best example is Israel itself, which jumped at a 1947 United Nations proposal for a Jewish state, even though it was noncontiguous and excluded Jerusalem and much of its present territory. The Arab states rejected the proposal, which would have also created a parallel Arab country.

India and Pakistan didn’t reject independence because major territorial claims were left unaddressed. Ireland accepted independence without the island’s six northern counties. Morocco didn’t refuse statehood because Spain retained land on its northern coast.

While there have been hundreds of national independence movements in modern times, few are fortunate enough to receive an offer of fully recognized sovereign statehood. Including 1947, the Palestinians have received four. From Tibet to Kurdistan, such opportunities remain a dream.

Several lessons must be drawn from the Palestinians’ serial rejection of statehood – and this week, even of economic development. First, the status quo is not Israeli “rule” or “domination.” The Palestinians can comfortably turn down once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because almost all Palestinians already live under Palestinian government. Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, they’ve enjoyed many of statehood’s trappings, particularly in foreign relations. Israel undertakes regular antiterror operations, but that’s different from overall power. For instance, the U.S. doesn’t “rule” over Afghanistan.

Second, statehood and a resolution to the conflict is not what the Palestinians truly seek. This is what economists call a “revealed preference”: To know what consumers truly want, look at what they choose. The Palestinians have repeatedly chosen the status quo over sovereignty.

Finally, throw out the assumption that when Palestinians reject an offer, it stays on the table and accrues interest. If offers will only improve with time, the Palestinians have an incentive to keep saying no.

The Palestinian Authority cannot be forced to accept a peaceful settlement, and Israel doesn’t wish to return to its pre-Oslo control over the Palestinian population. But rejectionism, culminating this week in Bahrain, must have consequences.

For more than 50 years, the future of Jewish communities in the West Bank – and the nearly half a million Jews who now live there – has been held in limbo pending a diplomatic settlement. While the authority rejects improved hospitals, port arrangements and employment centers, many of the benefits for Palestinians could still be achieved by locating them in parts of the West Bank under Israeli jurisdiction. But to do that, the question mark over these places, which include all of the Jews living in the West Bank and a much smaller number of Palestinians, must be lifted. Washington should support Israeli initiatives to replace military rule with civil law in these areas, normalizing their status. The Palestinians’ no-show in Bahrain should end their ability to hold development and growth hostage.

Mr. Kontorovich is director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East and a law professor at George Mason University.



Bahrain FM: Israel is here to stay, and we want peace with it
* Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa says Manama conference could be ‘gamechanger’ like Israel-Egypt Camp David Accords; urges Israeli leaders to ‘talk to us’ about Arab Peace Initiative
By Raphael Ahren
The Times of Israel
June 26, 2019

MANAMA, Bahrain — Bahrain sees the US-led economic workshop taking place in Manama this week as a possible “gamechanger” tantamount in its scope to the 1978 Camp David peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, the Gulf state’s foreign minister said Wednesday, also firmly backing Israel’s right to exist.

“We see it as very, very important,” Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told The Times of Israel [and other Israeli media] on the sidelines of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop.

Khalifa also stressed that his country recognizes Israel’s right to exist, knows that it is “there to stay,” and wants peace with it.

He said the US-organized conference here, which is focused on the economic aspects of the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, could be like Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in 1977, which helped pave the way to the Camp David Accords and the normalizing of relations between Egypt and Israel.

“As much as Camp David 1 was a major gamechanger, after the visit of President Sadat — if this succeeds, and we build on it, and it attracts attention and momentum, this would be the second gamechanger,” Khalifa said.

In an interview in his suite at Manama’s posh Four Seasons hotel, Khalifa did not commit to normalizing diplomatic ties with Israel in the near future, but unequivocally affirmed Israel’s right to exist as a state with secure borders.

“Israel is a country in the region… and it’s there to stay, of course,” he said.

“Who did we offer peace to [with] the [Arab] Peace Initiative? We offered it to a state named the State of Israel, in the region. We did not offer it to some faraway island or some faraway country,” Khalifa continued, referring to a Saudi-backed peace framework.

“We offered it to Israel. So we do believe that Israel is a country to stay, and we want better relations with it, and we want peace with it.”

While Bahrain might be only Arab state, besides Egypt and Jordan, to publicly acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, “we know our brothers in the region do believe in it” as well, he said.

Khalifa pointed to the Arab Peace Initiative as the blueprint for normalizing ties with Israel. Israel’s rejection of the plan is a “missed opportunity,” he lamented, but Jerusalem can always rethink its position.

He encouraged Israelis to approach Arab leaders about any issues they may have with the proposal.

“Come and talk to us. Talk to us about it. Say, guys, you have a good initiative, but we have one thing that worries us,” he said.

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, said this week that the White House’s proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace will not follow the contours of the Arab Peace Initiative, but be closer to Israel’s position.

Turning to Trump’s peace plan, Khalifa said he has not yet seen the political part of the US administration’s two-pronged proposal, but sounded cautiously optimistic about it.

“We have to wait. I cannot talk about something that I don’t know. But we hope that this political plan will also be attractive to everybody,” he said. “Look at the workshop. It’s very attractive. You don’t want to give an attractive offer and then come and bring something that could stall it. We want to see it continue on the same momentum. So we’ll see it.”

Asked about which elements of a possible deal Bahrain could get behind, he replied: “Whatever you can agree on with the Palestinians.”

Speaking Wednesday at the conference, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he would like the White House’s economic plan to be adopted by the international community.

“This is a regional economic plan. Although Gaza and the West Bank are a major focus of this plan, it also includes Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon… it is very important that we focus on these economies as a whole,” he said.

“Most importantly, we want an international consensus… We want this to become not a United States plan, we want this to become an international plan. Now that the plan is out there, we’re looking for changes, we’re looking for additions, we’re looking for buy-in, and really as a next step that this becomes a collective” plan, said Mnuchin.

Mnuchin said: “This is a plan that can very much be accomplished.”

“I know there is a lot of money in this room,” he said to the smiling audience.



Haaretz correspondent Noa Landau writes:

Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told Israeli journalists on the sidelines of the U.S. Mideast peace conference in Manama that “Israel is part of this heritage of this whole region, historically. So, the Jewish people have a place among us.”

He also voiced support for Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, saying “every country has a right to defend itself.” He called Iran a “major threat to the stability and the security of the region,” and said Iran’s support for militant groups have hindered Arab-Israeli peace efforts.



Alex Ryvchin writes in The Australian (extracts):

The petulant refusal of the Palestinian leadership to even consider a proposal intended to offer ordinary Palestinians an alternative to war, conflict and victimhood is impeccably consistent with earlier Palestinian responses to international efforts aimed at giving them statehood. Palestinian unionist Majdi Shella admitted the Palestinians “have a long tradition of boycotting everything. Sometimes boycotting is the easier road. If you want to do nothing, boycott.”

The Palestinians have refined their instinct for rejection and political self-immolation to such an extent that they appear to know no other path. This is why Palestinian rioters destroyed greenhouses left to them by the Israelis following the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. This is why last year Palestinians in Gaza set fire to the Kerem Shalom border crossing through which medicine, aid and consumer products intended for the Palestinians are transferred.


PM Netanyahu to chair trilateral summit of the US, Russian and Israeli national security advisers
June 24, 2019

PM Netanyahu: The fact that this summit is being held here in Israel is additional testimony to Israel’s unique standing among the nations at this time.

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will, tomorrow morning (Tuesday, 25 June 2019), at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem, chair a trilateral meeting of the US, Russian and Israeli national security advisers. The talks will focus on Iran, Syria and regional issues.

Prime Minister Netanyahu met, earlier today, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, with the Secretary of the Russian National Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev. Yesterday he met with US National Security Adviser John Bolton, also at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, and also held with him a tour of various points in the Jordan Valley, as well as a helicopter tour of the Jerusalem area, the security fence and the Jordan Valley.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the following at today’s Cabinet meeting:

“Tomorrow I will lead an unprecedented summit between the two superpowers – the US and Russia, and Israel, here in Israel. The fact that this summit is being held here in Israel is additional testimony to Israel’s unique standing among the nations at this time.”


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If only the Kurds or Baluchis or Rohingya Muslims were so lucky

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.