Palestinians to be sacrificed for Israel-Gulf marriage

King Hamad of Bahrain and the Trump administration are planning an economic summit with Israel in Manama that Palestinians see as part of an effort to liquidate their rights. (Wikimedia commons)

Ties between Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, and Israel are warmer than ever as the United States beats its war drums against Iran and prepares to reveal its so-called “Deal of the Century.”

President Donald Trump last pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear agreement, recently sent some 1,500 troops to the region and is imposing “tougher sanctions on Iran than ever before.”

This economic and political warfare is part of an escalating regime change effort led by the US, Israel and Gulf states following a Saudi-led campaign against Iran that spans more than a decade.

Palestinians are to be the sacrificial lambs at the Israel-Gulf wedding, as United Arab Emirates businessman Khalaf Al Habtoor made clear Wednesday in an op-ed in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

Al Habtoor, who has been at the forefront of normalization efforts with Israel, urged Palestinians to attend the Trump administration’s planned economic conference in Bahrain next month.

“I long for the day when Israel and Arab states, in particular Gulf States, are able to normalize diplomatic and trade relations as Egypt and Jordan have done,” Al Habtoor writes, adding that “all share a common enemy”: Iran.

Al Habtoor characterizes Iran as an “existential threat,” and asserts that closer ties with Israel are the solution.

“However, normalization requires a satisfactory resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – or, at the very least, for tensions to be reduced,” Al Habtoor explains. “Once achieved, we will be well placed to halt Tehran’s belligerent adventurism in its tracks.”

“Satisfactory” in this case does not mean satisfactory to Palestinians, but rather to Israel and its allies; the entire Palestinian body politic, including the Palestinian Authority, are refusing to participate in a summit they see as integral to the Trump administration’s effort to liquidate their rights.

While Trump claims that the US is not seeking regime change in Iran, but rather “no nuclear weapons,” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif challenged the assertion, calling US sanctions a form of “economic terrorism.”

Convincing the regional public that Iran is indeed a dangerous enemy is integral to Israeli, American and Gulf regime common interests.

“Since 2004, the Arab people have been subjected to an unprecedented chauvinistic campaign, which accuses Iran and Shiites of being the main enemy of all Arabs and that they, not Israel, deserve the anger and hatred of the Arabs,” Columbia University professor Joseph Massad writes this week in Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar.

“Fifteen years after its launch, this campaign has cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian and Yemeni victims who have been sacrificed on the altar of oil families,” Massad adds.

“Today, it is demanded of the Palestinian people that all their rights be renounced as a price to be paid to preserve their thrones.”

Manama conference

As Trump and his allies escalate their assault on Iran, they are also planning to launch the economic component of his administration’s so-called Deal of the Century between Israel and the Palestinians at a conference in the Bahraini capital Manama on 25 and 26 June.

Bahrain, whose King Hamad has given Israel and its lobby a warm embrace, is a natural choice for a venue.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have reportedly confirmed their attendance.

That Qatar – which has been totally isolated and blockaded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE over the last two years – is attending, is a sign of how obedience to Washington, and by extension to Israel, is a common interest even among the most antagonistic Gulf regimes.

Since the Saudi-led blockade began, Qatar has been competing with its Gulf rivals for US affections, and like those rivals it views cultivating the support of Israel and its lobby as the fastest route to Washington’s heart.

In a sign of rapprochement, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz invited Qatari ruler Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to two Arab summits in Mecca this week.

Palestinian rejection of Trump deal

Even the Palestinian Authority, which normally cooperates closely with Israel, is refusing to go along with the Trump administration’s plans.

“Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ will go to hell, as will the economic workshop in Bahrain that the Americans intend to hold and present illusions,” PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said earlier this week.

China and Russia will also be boycotting the conference, according to a PA official.

It is unclear, however, whether Jordan plans to attend.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to Trump, will meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Wednesday, likely to pressure Jordan to attend the Manama meeting.

Moshe Kahlon, Israel’s finance minister, is expected to head the Israeli delegation to Bahrain.

The Trump administration is evidently trying to co-opt individual Palestinians into the normalization effort.

Palestinian businessman Abed Alkarim Ashour said on Facebook that he received an invitation from “the Americans and our brothers in Bahrain” who “seek to sell Palestine for a few dollars.”

He posted an image of a letter addressed to him from Steven Mnuchin, the US treasury secretary, inviting him to the so-called Peace to Prosperity workshop.

“You have sent the invitation to the wrong person and the wrong address,” Ashour added.

Opposition is also coming from within the host state.

The Bahraini Society Against Normalization with the Zionist Enemy asserted its rejection of the Manama meeting and called “on the Bahraini government to cancel this workshop, whose objectives include deepening normalization with the Zionist entity and cementing its alliances with some Arab regimes.”

Iranian judo set to normalize?

Despite Israel’s escalating animosity against their country, Iranian judo athletes will apparently no longer boycott their Israeli counterparts.

An agreement was reached between the International Judo Federation and Iran’s national Olympic committee earlier this month, conceding that the latter will “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

The statement does not name Israel, but the move was understood by Israeli media as a response to Iranian judokas’ refusal to fight Israeli athletes and to forfeit matches instead.

Previously, Israeli culture minister Miri Regev extensively lobbied the president of the International Judo Federation, Marius Vizer, to exclude the UAE and Tunisia from judo events until they complied with normalization requirements.

Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.