The Palestinian leadership didn’t boycott the Trump administration’s economic meeting in Bahrain last week because it denied them a future political horizon. They oppose the Trump Prosperity to Peace plan because it gives them an open road to success.
The footage of the administration’s workshop last week on developing the Palestinian economy made for surrealistic viewing. Sitting in Manama, Bahrain, were representatives of most Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Egypt, and Jordan. There were also leaders of international economic institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And there were business leaders from the U.S., the Arab world, and Europe. They were hosted by a U.S. delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as well as by President Donald Trump’s Middle East negotiations team, headed by senior presidential advisor Jared Kushner and senior presidential advisor for negotiations Jason Greenblatt.
All of these leaders came together to discuss a detailed U.S. plan to bring $50 billion in grants, loans, and investments to the Palestinians in the West Bank, (i.e., Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip, as well as to neighboring Arab states: Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
The stated purpose of the plan is to end Palestinian economic privation and suffering by transforming the Palestinian economy from a negative growth, high-unemployment economy into a prosperous high-growth, low-unemployment economy.
Yet despite the money involved and the power the participants packed, the Palestinians didn’t show up. The Palestinian Authority (PA) announced in May that it was boycotting the conference and appealed to all those invited to boycott the conference as well.
After the conference convened last Tuesday, the PA sent mobs out to riot throughout the West Bank. They burned effigies of President Donald Trump. The youth wing of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction called for a renewed terror campaign against Israel. And together with Hamas, Fatah branded Palestinian businessmen who braved the boycott and travelled to Bahrain “traitors” and vowed to punish them “with full force” for their treachery. Indeed, at least one Palestinians businessman who participated in the Bahrain conference was arrested upon returning home. Others escaped arrest by running away from their homes when they were alerted that PA security forces were en route to arrest them.
Why is the PA acting in this manner? The Trump administration’s Peace to Prosperity plan is entirely positive for the Palestinians. All it seeks to do is help them. It provides them funding for education, for job training, for government reform, and for infrastructure building. It provides them better access to goods and services and international markets and much more.
And the Palestinians don’t need to give up anything in return.
Israel isn’t so lucky. The plan requires Israel to incur significant costs to its economy and security to facilitate the plan’s implementation. The plan foresees the construction of railway and other physical links between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The physical links required to provide the Palestinians with contiguous territory will, by force of geography, end Israel’s territorial contiguity.
The plan foresees Israel providing Gaza with fresh water, thereby decreasing Israel’s own supply. Israel’s supply of fresh water has already been significantly reduced by massive transfers of water to Jordan (which the plan foresees Israel increasing).
From a security perspective, Israel is endangered by the plan’s intention to loosen physical inspections of Palestinian imports and exports.
All the same, Israel supports the Trump administration’s economic initiative for peace. Israeli officials intended to participate in the Bahrain conference. But when the U.S. decided not to invite any official Israeli representatives in light of the Palestinian boycott, the Israeli government accepted the decision without criticism.
The Palestinians justified their boycott by insisting they are not willing to concede their political positions for money.
A PA press release read, “[T]he Palestinian issue and national rights are not up for sale, and economic initiatives and imaginary promises to the world will not cover the evil face of the ‘deal of the century,’ which is intended to eradicate the Palestinian issue.”
The Palestinian position is rich on sanctimony but utterly lacking in substance. While it is true that the economic plan says nothing about Palestinian statehood or any other political issue, it also didn’t reject any Palestinian position. It ignored all of that and concentrated on Palestinian economic development – something that ought to be of some interest to the PA.
But that is the thing. The PA’s dirty secret is that it has no interest in developing the Palestinian economy. And it is this state of affairs – not any self-talking points on unrelated political issues – that stood at the root of the PA’s boycott of last week’s conference and subsequent ill treatment of the Palestinian businessmen who dared to attend despite the PA’s boycott.
The Palestinian leaders reject the U.S. plan to develop their economy because, if implemented, the plan will end Palestinian suffering. And the PA wants to prolong Palestinian suffering.
By maintaining their people in a state of perpetual privation, the Palestinian leaders from both the Fatah regime in the West Bank and the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strop are able to feed them a steady diet of anti-Israel indoctrination. For the past 71 years, the Palestinian leadership has told the Palestinian people that their suffering is Israel’s fault. To end their suffering, they are told, they need to destroy Israel. And those who take action to achieve this goal by attacking Israel are rewarded for their efforts.
PLO chief and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas made it clear that this is his position when he deliberately forced the U.S. to defund the Palestinian Authority budget. Abbas forced the U.S.’s hand last year when he refused to end the PA’s allocation of 7 percent of its budget to convicted terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails and to the families of dead terrorists. All Abbas needed to do to prevent defunding of the PA budget was end his regime’s subsidization of terrorism. And he refused.
So too, when Israel passed a law similar to America’s Taylor Force Act, which bars the U.S. from funding the PA so long as it pays salaries to incarcerated terrorists and to the families of dead terrorists, Abbas decided to refuse Israeli financial transfers to the PA. To deal with the funding gap, Abbas cut salaries of regular PA employees by 50 percent and raised the payments to terrorists.
In other words, Abbas chose to immiserate his own people to ensure the continued incentivization of terrorism against Israel.
For its part, Hamas, which destroyed Gaza’s economy, offers the residents of its terror state in Gaza no option other than to serve Hamas’s terror war machine against Israel. Like Hamas, by rejecting U.S. and Israeli funding in order to keep up his payments to terrorists and their families, Abbas denied the Palestinian residents of his West Bank fiefdom an alternative to supporting Israel’s annihilation through terrorism.
Another purpose that perpetuating Palestinian economic suffering serves is securing political support for the Palestinian campaign against Israel. Palestinian economic privation induces the United Nations, the European Union, and the international Left to maintain and expand their hostility to Israel, which is blamed for their plight.
UN and EU anti-Israel resolutions, BDS campaigns, and UN and European financial transfers to Abbas’s coffers will continue to flow only so long as the Palestinians living under the PA’s jackboot continue to suffer and Israel continues to be blamed.
If the Trump plan is implemented, and Palestinian suffering ends, the A-listers in the media, on college campuses, and on the diplomatic circuit also stand to lose.
In short, the Palestinian leadership doesn’t hate Trump and his team because they are trying to hurt the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership hate Trump and his team because they are trying to help the Palestinians.
Caroline Glick is a world-renowned journalist and commentator on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Read more at www.CarolineGlick.com.