Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank marched and clashed with police to protest a US-brokered conference in Bahrain, where business delegations from the Middle East and beyond discuss Washington’s plan for Palestine.
Thousands took to the streets to condemn the conference, which began in the city of Manama on Tuesday with a workshop dubbed ‘Peace to prosperity’ led by US President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner, who recently unveiled the upbeat economic part of the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal devised by Washington. Taking part are mostly Arab states, as well as the US and European delegations, while neither Israeli nor Palestinian official delegations are present.
Many protesters shouted slogans and carried signs and placards with messages critical of the meeting. “Palestine is not for sale!” they chanted. “From Bahrain to Saudi Arabia we are not tempted by your millions!”
One creative group of protesters pasted images of various regional heads of state on a donkey and paraded it through the streets. While the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan have been vocal in their support for the Palestinian cause and the need of a political solution, the seemingly lucrative $50-billion investment plan had them all ears.
Some of the demonstrations got a bit too heated and broke out into scuffles with Israeli security forces.
Other areas in the West Bank, meanwhile, resembled a ghost town, as businesses closed their doors for a general strike, also intended in protest of the Bahrain summit.
Hundreds in Lebanon, home to a sizable Palestinian population, also marched in solidarity with the West Bank demonstrators.
The conference in Manama brings together diplomats, officials and business leaders to discuss the multibillion investment project for the West Bank and Gaza – which Kushner says would be implemented only if Palestinians agree to the yet-undisclosed political part of the peace deal with Israel.
Several Palestinian organizations have announced they would boycott the deal in advance, while the idea to put the economic part up for discussion before the crucial political one has been overwhelmingly rejected. Palestinian leaders and supporters believe that the conflict with Israel cannot be resolved without first addressing outstanding matters such as Palestinian statehood and the right of return for refugees.