June 21, 2019
We, the undersigned, express our grave concern regarding the US-led “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain, which poses a significant threat to the Palestinian right to self-determination, justice, and equality. The Bahrain workshop is part of President Trump’s anticipated Palestine-Israel peace plan, touted as the “Deal of the Century,” and will be held later this month to discuss investment in the occupied Palestinian territory as an economic solution to the question of Palestine.
Although the contents of the plan have not yet been released, the troubling pattern of the current US administration’s policies portend what the plan will likely entail — a continued course of uncritical support for Israel at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people. Since 2017, the Trump administration’s policies have undermined Palestinian rights, contravened international law, and flouted longstanding US policies with regard to Israel and Palestine. President Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan in violation of international law, which does not recognize sovereignty over territory taken from another country by force. It has also cut crucial US funding to UNRWA for its work with Palestinian refugees, eliminated USAID programs in the West Bank and Gaza, and closed the Washington office of the General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
These US policies jeopardize the inalienable rights of Palestinians to self-determination and an independent Palestinian state, an end to the prolonged occupation, an end to Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
Palestinians have been held captive to Israel’s market and economy due to the prolonged occupation and are facing increasing economic pressure as a result of US policies. Now, Palestinians will be asked to give up their inalienable rights and struggle for freedom and justice in exchange for vague promises of economic cooperation and an alleged better standard of living. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and a number of prominent Palestinian businessmen have made it clear that they oppose the plan and will not be attending. Russia and China will also boycott the workshop. However, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar have announced their plans to attend as the Gulf states are expected to provide the bulk of the investment funding. Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt will also be sending representatives.
The Palestinian people are facing an Israeli-made humanitarian, human rights, and political crisis that is deeply rooted in geopolitical incentives and cannot be wished away through aid and investment, as envisioned by the proponents of the Bahrain workshop. These efforts echo the “checkbook diplomacy” put forward during the Oslo peace process, while ignoring the ramifications of Israel’s prolonged military occupation and colonization endured by the Palestinian people for more than five decades. The lack of political will to put an end to Israeli impunity and disregard for international law are the root causes of the continued occupation, annexation, and colonization of Palestinian territory. International aid has merely subsidized and sustained the status quo, making the military occupation cost free and profitable for the Israeli government.
In order to bring about a just resolution that meets international legal standards, the underlying causes of this crisis – which stem from the occupation – must be properly addressed. If the international community and states in the region do not oppose the Bahrain workshop and the US policies that it represents, the Israeli government will be emboldened to further entrench the occupation through settlement expansion, annexation of Palestinian territory, and maintaining its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Israeli leadership has already pledged to begin annexing parts of the West Bank. Further, the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, recently stated that Israel “has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” Such acts would be in violation of international law pertaining to self-determination and the unlawful annexation of territory. If these policies are enacted, it would exacerbate the existing human rights crisis and deny Palestinians any prospects for development – which remain out of reach if effective access to their land and natural resources is not realized.
Not only does the US plan imperil Palestinians’ aspirations for basic rights and an independent state, it also poses significant risks to the stability of the region. The US administration’s disregard for international principles and law will have wide-reaching and long-term ramifications threatening the progress that has been made in the acceptance of the international order and legislation protecting human rights.
We call on the international community and states of the region to reject any and all efforts to sacrifice Palestinians’ internationally recognized rights to self-determination, justice, freedom, and equality. Any legitimate peace process must be based on the principles of international law, justice, and equality.
In particular, we call on all Arab states not to attend the Bahrain workshop due to the absence of formal Palestinian representation, as no party has the right to negotiate on behalf of Palestinians. We further call on Arab states to match their words of support for Palestinian rights and a Palestinian state with their actions by ensuring that any agreement reached involves Palestinian participation and includes the fulfillment of Palestinian rights as enshrined under international law by putting an end to Israel’s illegal occupation and annexation of Palestinian territory, as well as accountability for the persistent human rights abuses, war crimes, and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the occupying power – its institutions, military, and agents.