US says Israel not invited to Bahrain Conference
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attending a special festive cabinet meeting at the Israeli settlement of Bruchim-Kela Alon, in the Golan Heights, June 16, 2019. EPA-EFE/FILE/ATEF SAFADI
Washington, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- The White House said it won't invite the Israeli government to the unveiling of the economic part of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan at a Bahrain conference next week, dealing a setback to a signature initiative of President Donald Trump, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report made available to EFE on Tuesday.
The Bahrain gathering, scheduled for June 25-26, aims to kick off what Trump calls the "deal of the century," but now it won't have any official Israeli or Palestinian representation.
The White House said it decided not to invite Israeli officials to keep the focus on the Palestinian economy rather than politics. Palestinian Authority officials are boycotting the event, and many Palestinian business leaders have said they won't attend either.
"This is a workshop where we will present our economic vision for the Palestinian people. As such, we want the focus to be on the economic aspect, not the political," a Trump administration official said. The official said the administration plans to invite an Israeli business delegation, but declined to name specific individuals.
Administration officials said the conference aims to bring together government, civil society and business leaders to share ideas and build support for economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace plan.
US officials have said they are seeking tens of billions of dollars, and people briefed on the effort said they are seeking as much as $68 billion.
When the conference was unveiled last month, White House officials suggested that Israeli officials would attend. But on Monday the White House said it had ruled out their participation.
Israeli officials said the decision was reached in coordination between Israel and the US
Palestinian officials have urged Arab officials not to attend, but officials from Morocco, Jordan and Egypt will attend, the White House says. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have also announced their participation.
Saudi Arabia said it would send its finance minister but other countries haven't confirmed their level of participation.
Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said on Monday that the EU will likely send a lower-level technical official. Officials from the International Monetary Fund will also participate.
On Monday, Jordan's foreign minister Ayman Safadi said attending the conference wouldn't prevent Jordan from saying no to the Trump plan when it is revealed.
"Let's not exaggerate the significance of the Bahrain workshop," Safadi told reporters in Luxembourg after meeting with EU foreign ministers.
The White House has scaled back expectations for the conference. Initially, the White House said it would follow the conference by unveiling its political vision to resolve the decadeslong conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but Israel's surprise snap elections have delayed that part of the plan until at least November, officials said.
The White House has been working on its peace plan for more than two years and has delayed releasing it several times. Palestinian government officials have boycotted contacts with the Trump administration since December 2017 when President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Relations between the Trump administration and the Palestinian Authority have been further strained by the Trump administration's decision to slash bilateral financial assistance and funds for the UN refugee agency as well as close the Palestinian's de facto embassy in Washington.