Will Jared Kushner stay away from his own conference in Bahrain?

With two weeks left until the 'Peace to Prosperity' workshop for Palestinians, it is still not even clear who will attend

June 13, 2019 10:43

There is less than two weeks to go before the “Peace to Prosperity workshop” takes place in Bahrain, the first stage of the much-awaited Trump Peace Plan, and it still is not even clear who will attend the event.

At this point, the only thing which is definite is that the Palestinians, whose prosperity the workshop is supposed to boost, will boycott it.

Despite claims by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (see page 27) that the “silent majority” of Palestinians would jump at the plan, that silent majority is going to be represented by one lone used-cars salesman from Hebron, Ashraf al-Jabari.

The administration claimed on Tuesday that Jordan, Egypt and Morocco had also agreed to attend but so far there has been silence from the Egyptian government, conflicting reports in the Jordanian media but no official acknowledgement, and an outright denial from Morocco’s prime minister.

It is quite likely that all of these three countries, which are in need of American support, will ultimately come to the workshop, but western diplomats said this week that they will likely be represented by, at best, medium-level officials.

The hopes of the main figure associated with the Trump plan, presidential son-in-law and special advisor Jared Kushner, for a high-powered conference attended by senior ministers, are in danger of being dashed.

Last week, in what was a very rare move for members of the Europe-bashing Trump administration, Mr Kushner went to Brussels for meetings with the European Union in the hope of drumming up their support.

The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, listened to him politely and then gave him a lecture on the need for a “viable political process that takes into account the aspirations of both the Palestinians and the Israelis”, to accompany his economic plans.

It is not only the Palestinians and just about any other senior Arab minister who will not be coming. At this point, it does not look like Israel will be there either. An official invitation has yet to be extended to the Israeli government because the Trump administration has yet to work out whether Israeli participation will be helpful.

If an invitation does arrive, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants his finance minister Moshe Kahlon to represent him — although Mr Kahlon is not eager. Originally, Mr Netanyahu wanted to be there himself, in a second open visit to a Gulf state after last year’s to Oman. But he has already gathered that the chances of success are low and does not want to be associated with failure.

This raises the question of whether the organiser himself, Mr Kushner, will even attend.

American diplomats are already lowering expectations and speaking of the Bahrain workshop as merely a “preliminary step” and predicting that with, another Israeli election due to be held later this year, things will be delayed in any case.

And once a new government is finally formed in Jerusalem, the United States will be in its own election year and President Trump’s already limited appetite for foreign policy is likely to disappear.

Donald Trump spoke of his desire to deliver an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in the first interview he gave after being elected in November 2016.

Now, some in his administration are speaking of it as something he will achieve only in “the second term”.

Assuming, that is, that he wins one.

June 13, 2019 10:43

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