US Ambassador to Israel: Bahrain Workshop Will Create Momentum

US envoy to Israel, David Friedman. (Photo: via Twitter)

The United States Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has hailed the upcoming US-led conference in Bahrain this month as an important step towards achieving Washington’s Middle East peace plan in the region, despite Palestinians announcing they would boycott the meeting.

Friedman told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview:

“[The Bahrain workshop] is an attempt to jumpstart the Palestinian economy. That’s the purpose and that’s the focus. To improve the quality of life of Palestinians.” 

The meeting, which will be held in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, on June 25-26, has drawn criticism from the Palestinians who say Trump’s peace plan is likely to be heavily weighed in favor of Israel and quash their aspirations for statehood in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While the precise outlines of Washington’s draft plan – which he has branded the “deal of the century” –  have yet to be revealed, Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed about it say it has abandoned the two-state solution. 

Although the Palestinian Authority (PA) will not attend the meeting, billed by the administration of US President Donald Trump as a workshop to boost the Palestinian economy, Friedman says it is an important meeting nonetheless.

“There will be a significant showing from the Palestinian business community, and we will work with them as best we can,” said Friedman, adding that the PA’s non-attendance was disappointing, but not insurmountable.

He explained:

“I don’t know that the Palestinian Authority is the last word on how to create a better life for the Palestinians. The Palestinians themselves should have a say in that.”

Despite the controversy around the meeting, Friedman defended the workshop’s objectives as a means to create “a momentum” for peace.

Friedman told Al Jazeera:

“The Palestinians have aspirations that have to be addressed. The Israelis have issues that have to be addressed. This conflict needs to be resolved on a political level … But in order to create a momentum … we need significant improvement in the economy. That is the only way that people on both sides will have faith that there is the opportunity for real peace.”

He added that focusing on the economic rather than political aspects of the peace plan will also likely create an environment conducive to successful negotiations between the two sides.

Returning back to politics, Friedman, a staunch supporter of Israel’s illegal settlements, said Israel faces many challenges, including the status of hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews in occupied West Bank.

Speaking about solutions to the situation in the Gaza Strip, Friedman ruled out negotiations with Hamas, the party governing the enclave which the US and Israel consider a terrorist organization.

According to the World Bank, the economy in the Gaza Strip is “collapsing” mainly due to the 12-year blockade on the coastal enclave in addition to cuts in donor aid.

(Al Jazeera, PC, Social Media)

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