US-led Palestinian economic workshop opens to rejection, indifference

The White House proposal was met with criticism and protest from Palestinians.

TEL AVIV, Israel -- A U.S.-backed Palestinian economic workshop began in Bahrain Tuesday evening with no Palestinian or Israeli participation, facing rejection or indifference across much of the Middle East.

The Trump administration is proposing a $50 billion investment fund to be spent in the next decade in Palestinian territories and neighboring Arab countries as part of its Middle East peace plan.

The proposal has been spearheaded by Kushner, and the White House calls the plan the "most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date," although it has not made clear where the money would come from.

Although the workshop in Manama deals with one possible solution to a conflict, neither the Palestinians nor Israeli leaders are attending.

"The potential of our people lies in their ability to live in a sovereign and free Palestine," Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat said in a statement Tuesday. "Our right to self-determination, freedom, and independence should be honored through the implementation of UN resolutions and international law. This is the only way to peace and prosperity."

Another leading Palestinian figure, Hanan Ashrawi, echoed the same view, convinced that a free Palestinian people in its own sovereign country will be able to build a vibrant and prosperous economy.

"First lift the siege of Gaza, stop the Israeli theft of our land, resources &funds, give us our freedom of movement & control over our borders, airspace, territorial waters etc." Ashrawi tweeted. "Then watch us build a vibrant prosperous economy as a free & sovereign people."

Palestinians in the West Bank rallied Tuesday to protest both the Trump administration’s Peace for Prosperity plan and the meeting in Bahrain. Demonstrations reportedly took place in Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah. In Gaza, a general strike was observed. Other protests reportedly took place in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

In Israel, the Peace to Prosperity initiative -- pitched by a U.S. administration friendly to Israel's leadership -- has been tacitly accepted. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the initiative will be examined fairly and openly.

Israel's minister of regional cooperation, Tzachi Hanegbi, criticized Palestinians' refusal to participate, tweeting that their lack of participation was "astonishing."