Photo Credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90
Hebron businessman turned political leader Ashraf Jabari

At a time when the PLO bigwigs in Ramallah are chasing each other’s tail to blow off their opportunity to join the June 25-26, US-sponsored economic conference in Bahrain, a new player is emerging, Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari, who said he would be happy to attend.

On May 1, Jabari launched the Reform and Development Party in Hebron, claiming to represent his people’s silent majority. That did not go over well with the gangsters in Ramallah, who cast suspicions at the newcomer’s motives. The Fatah movement in Hebron issued warnings about the fledgling party and vowed to hold its members “accountable” for their plan “to extend the rule of the occupation on the Palestinian territories.”

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In its traditional democratic style, Fatah stated that anyone who markets Jabari’s “poisonous ideas,” or participates in his party’s meetings, “will bear the consequences of his participation and will be held accountable nationally and in the community. We send a clear message to this group that if it takes its suspicious step [to organize], our response will be harsh and we will not tolerate those who think of striking out against our project of National unity and the establishment of our Palestinian state.”

Jabari is not big on the Palestinian state thing, as he told a July, 2018 Knesset meeting of the Israel Victory Lobby session on “25 Years of Oslo, Time for Rethinking.” Appearing alongside MKs Avraham Neguisse (Likud) and Oded Forer (Israel Beiteinu), as well as pundits Daniel Pipes and Gregg Roman, Jabari asked “How has Oslo helped the Palestinians?”

“Twenty-five years ago, the Palestinians were in a terrific situation. Israelis and Palestinians worked together in Hebron. How many people have been killed since 1993? We haven’t achieved anything. There is no solution until we all live under the sovereignty of the State of Israel. We can live together without hatred. We have to stop enough violence and terror. We have to continue together, shoulder to shoulder, in order to succeed,” Jabari told the pro-sovereignty lobby.

Not exactly music to the PLO’s ears. Jabari also told US Ambassador David Friedman that since the signing of Oslo, the US had given the PA more than $7 billion. “Where did it go?” he wanted to know, adding he would like to ask the PA leadership: “What have you done for the Palestinian people?”

Jabari is convinced that the only people who are against a return to Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria are “those who profit from the conflict. I am certain the Palestinians want real peace. It will be better for our children and our grandchildren. It is time to say, Enough. We are not afraid of any backlash. The most important thing is for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.”

The US is yet to release a detailed list of the participants attendees at the Bahrain conference, and should the PA condition its participation on removing unwanted voices such as Jabari’s, the brave businessman could find himself pushed under the bus for the sake of diplomatic success. Still, US officials have clearly expressed an interest in involving individual business leaders from the PA, and Jabari is the Central Casting candidate for the job.

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