Palestinians: Arabs Not Authorized to Represent Us at Bahrain Peace Summit

Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian negotiator, gestures during a press conference in Jerusalem on March 19, 2015. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committe was given two weeks to work out the modalities to end the security cooperation with Israel, Erekat said. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI (Photo credit should read …
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty

TEL AVIV – Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated the position that no Palestinian has been given authorization to attend next month’s US-led peace conference in Bahrain, amid reports that Arab countries are pressuring the Palestinians to walk back their rejection of it. 

Erekat, speaking on Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV, chastised both Arab nations that have chosen to send representatives to the conference and Palestinian businessmen who have accepted invitations.

“As for those who are going — and this is their decision — we did not authorize anyone to speak in our name. If the Palestinian people are not there, and if the Palestinian leadership is also not there, why are they participating?” Erekat, who also serves as the PLO’s secretary-general, said.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced that they will attend the Manama workshop.

Both countries are said to have pressured the PA into reversing their rejection of the invitation.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE expressed “concern” over Palestinian opposition to the workshop.

“The Arabs are telling us that they stand with the Palestinians, while at the same time they are collaborating with the US administration in liquidating the Palestinian cause,” a senior PA official told the Post. “Why are the Arabs acting against the promises they made to the Palestinians in all the Arab League summits and the [2002] Arab Peace Initiative.”

Erekat echoed those sentiments with a message to the Arab world: “If I’m not going, does that mean that you know my interests better than me? I can understand that you are under [US] pressure. Let’s talk with transparency. You can say I can’t go because the Palestinians are not coming and I can’t accept what the Palestinians reject, and I can’t reject what they accept.”

Last week, the U.S. announced it would unroll the first phase of its long-anticipated peace proposal at the forum, saying it would outline the economic rewards if a peace deal were to be struck.

Special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt said the proposal has the “potential to unlock a prosperous future for the Palestinians.”

Erekat responded by saying, “Palestine’s full economic potential can only be achieved by ending the Israeli occupation, respecting international law and UN resolutions.”

Senior Fatah official Hussein al-Sheikh over the weekend said, “Jerusalem was not for sale and all the billions are not worth a stone of its Old City.”

Erekat accompanied Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week to Qatar and Jordan in a bid to convince those countries to boycott the conference.

Erekat said on Al-Mayadeen TV: “In the end, countries decide for themselves. The Palestinian position has been announced in the name of President Abbas, the PLO, all the Palestinian political factions, including Hamas, businessmen from the private sector, civil society organizations and national personalities. We will not participate in the workshop held by [US] President Donald Trump’s administration.”

“Arab countries will attend the conference, because the US is good at employing pressure on the basis of interests,” he said.

Erekat said that under Abbas’ orders, he intends to speak to many European and Arab countries.

In his estimation, the PLO official said, the Bahrain workshop will fail “like the recent conference that was held in Warsaw,” referring to a U.S.-led Middle East conference on peace and security last month that the Palestinians also boycotted.

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