The US-sponsored Peace to Prosperity economic workshop in Manama, Bahrain, will commence on Tuesday evening, and 10 businessmen from the Palestinian Authority (PA) have arrived in the country to attend the summit, despite facing threats issued by the various Arab factions at home.
Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari, who is leading the PA delegation, will speak at the conference.
Jabari heads the “Judea Samaria Regional Development Financing Initiative” (RDFI) and the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JSC), together with Avi Zimmerman, an Israeli.
In his first interview from Bahrain, Jabari told TPS that the delegation is experiencing a positive atmosphere and is being warmly received by the Arabic-language and foreign media.
Jabari and Safwan Zrier, previously a member of the Palestinian communist party, report that they have held several unofficial meetings on the sidelines of the conference, during which they received support for arriving at the workshop.
The PA delegation came to the summit to “learn if it is possible to improve the economic and social situation, which is rapidly deteriorating in the PA,” Jafari told TPS in the interview.
He underscored that the attendants were “not pawns controlled by international elements, but are rather a very large group of people from various segments of society who have decided to act for the benefit of their future and cooperate economically with any element.”
In meetings with the Arab media, Jabari heard harsh criticism from the journalists of the PA leadership over its boycott of the summit. The PA “prefers to receive handouts from Arab countries and has even called on its citizens to sell their jewelry to finance the treasury,” one journalist charged.
Journalist Nadia Harhash assailed the PA in a piece published in the prominent al-Rai newspaper on Tuesday, asking “why the PA is mobilizing against the Manama conference? Is it the fear that the mat will be pulled by others from under their feet?”
“Why renounce the Deal of the Century while the Authority cannot pay the salaries of its employees?” she asked.
“Improving roads, or, rather, opening a road linking Gaza to the PA, it looks like a wonderful project! A well-deserved project, at a time when we are politically divided! Why not pave possible ways to unity through roads funded by US presidential projects?” she added.
Similarly, elements from within the PA are criticizing PA head Mahmoud Abbas for completely boycotting the workshop. An official told TPS that senior officials are likewise upset by Abbas’ decision not to receive the tax transfers from Israel, while the PA’s financial state deteriorates to a point where it may collapse.
In the meantime, Arabs went out the streets in several PA cities to protest the summit. Hundreds gathered in Ramallah to demonstrate, acting on an official notice issued by the PA.
However, the low turnout to these events shows a general disinterest among the PA’s public, analysts say.