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Palestinians protest US-led conference in Bahrain
International Desk

Hundreds of Palestinians staged rallies in the occupied West Bank on Monday to protest a US-led conference in Bahrain this week.

US officials will unveil the economic portion of its back-channel Middle East peace plan known as the deal of the century during the June 25-26 conference, Anadolu Agency reported.

The conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, which the Palestinian Authority is boycotting, will discuss US-led proposals, set to be presented by President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, for an economic vision that is part of a wider plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The economic aspects of the US plan — dubbed the Peace to Prosperity workshop — are set to be discussed by attendees at the meeting.

The Palestinian officials said they will not be attending the conference in Bahrain and have rejected any US role in the mediating process ever since Trump's controversial announcement to move the American Embassy to Al-Quds last year.

"The Bahrain conference aims to provide a political support and an economic cover for the deal of the century," Qais Abdul Karim, deputy secretary general of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), told Anadolu Agency.

He said the conference aims to "liquidate the Palestinian cause."

Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara also rejected the recently-released details about the economic section of the US-devised plan as an “illusion” that will fail to bring about peace. “We don’t need the Bahrain meeting to build our country, we need peace, and the sequence of (the plan) — economic revival followed by peace is unrealistic and an illusion,” Bishara said on Sunday.

Protesters in the city of Ramallah chanted slogans against the US peace proposal and the Bahrain conference.

"We reject the Manama conference," Zeyad Abdo, a protester, said. "Our cause is political, not economic."

Similar rallies took place in the cities of Al-Khalil, Bethlehem, Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Salfit and Qalqilya.

 

Protests in Morocco

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Thousands protested Sunday in Morocco against the planned conference.

Demonstrators gathered in the capital Rabat burned an Israeli flag near Morocco’s Parliament and shouted “Death to Israel!” and “Death to the United States!”

Other slogans decried “Arab traitor regimes” for planning to attend the conference.

The US said on June 12 that Morocco would be one of several countries to attend the peace summit. Rabat has remained mum on the issue.

Arab politicians and commentators greeted Trump’s Middle East $50 billion economic vision with a mixture of derision and exasperation, although some in the Persian Gulf called for it to be given a chance.

Several Persian Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, will take part along with officials from Egypt, Jordan and Morocco. Lebanon and Iraq will not attend.

“Those who think that waving billions of dollars can lure Lebanon, which is under the weight of a suffocating economic crisis, into succumbing or bartering over its principles are mistaken,” Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Sunday.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah has previously called the plan “an historic crime” that must be stopped.

 

'Get Israel off our backs'

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Analysts have rebuked the economic part of the plan for failing to address the main problem that has heavily curbed the Palestinian economy – the 52-year-old Israeli military occupation over the Palestinian territories.

When the document was released, many noticed that the 40-page plan was void of any political context with the words "occupation", "freedom", "equality", "blockade" missing.

"The absence of those words is actually quite glaring and it's very indicative of what they see is the issue," Diana Buttu a Haifa-based analyst and former legal adviser to Palestinian peace negotiators told Al Jazeera.

"They've put together this optimal, pie-in-the-sky plan that any person who's involved in economic development would love to see. But it's not applicable to Palestine because they've taken away the political context."

At the heart of the plan is a proposed $50bn investment fund which would be split between Palestinians in the occupied territories (more than half of the total amount) and its neighbors Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

The fund will be used for 179 infrastructure and business projects, including building up the Palestinians' tourism sector.

However, it doesn't address the obstacles to freedom of movement that Palestinians face, living under the 12-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the Gaza Strip, or under occupation in the West Bank, surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, deeming it a nonstarter for many across the board.

The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited rule in some areas of the West Bank, and Hamas, which governs Gaza, have both staunchly rejected the plan.

A UN report in 2016 found that the economy of the occupied Palestinian territories might reach twice its size if the illegal Israeli military occupation was lifted.

"Occupation imposes a heavy cost" the report read citing Israeli "restrictions on the movement of people and goods; systematic erosion and destruction of the productive base; losses of land, water and other natural resources", as some of the impediments disrupting the territories' growth, aljazeera.com reported.

"If they really care about the Palestinian economy they should start by lifting the siege of Gaza, stopping Israel stealing our money and our resources and our land and opening up our territorial waters, our airspace and our borders so we can freely export and import," a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, Hanan Ashrawi, told Reuters by phone from the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday.

She said the Trump administration's stance was an "entirely wrong approach", adding: "They can end the occupation, which is the most basic requirement for prosperity. There can be no prosperity under occupation."

 

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