The announced participation of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar in the “Prosperity for Peace Conference” in Manama on 25-26 June — jointly convened by President Trump and Bahrain (“Manama Conference”) — promises to offer unique opportunities for Gaza and West Bank Arabs to emigrate to other Arab countries to seek better lives for their families.
Tens of millions of desperate people have fled their birthplaces in recent years seeking entry illegally into other countries. There is no reason to believe that Gaza and West Bank Arabs would not similarly want to emigrate if offered the opportunity to do so legally.
Gaza and West Bank Arabs have personally suffered under the oppressive rule of Hamas in Gaza since 2006 and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the West Bank since 1993. They have not been given the opportunity at any time to determine their own future in free and fair elections— except in 2006 when the PLO refused to accept the result. A bitter internecine struggle since then has ensued between Hamas and the PLO for political control of the Gaza and West Bank Arab populations that still remains unresolved. Elections are not even being contemplated to resolve this impasse.
The policies espoused by both Hamas and the PLO in relation to Israel have wrought disaster on Gaza and West Bank Arabs both in regard to their personal lives and economic prospects for themselves and their children.
The UAE has voiced its support for the Manama Conference and what it hopes will be achieved:
“The UAE supports all international efforts aimed at supporting economic progress and increasing opportunities in the region, and alleviating the suffering of people in the region, particularly our brothers in Palestine… It (the Conference) aims to lift the Palestinian people out of misery and to enable them for a stable and prosperous future”Hamas and the PLO are both violently opposed to the Manama Conference and have indicated they will not be attending. They are well aware of the threat an exodus from Gaza and the West Bank would pose to their hold on power and financial privilege.
Hamas — which has turned Gaza into a hell hole since Israel unilaterally disengaged from there in 2005—had the gall to declare:
“We warn Arab states against the malicious activities aimed to pave the way for normalisation with the Israeli occupation and involvement in the deal of the century”Saeb Erekat — secretary general of the PLO — expressed his opposition against the Conference claiming:
“there will be no economic prosperity in Palestine without the end of the occupation”Among the many exciting initiatives expected to be presented at the Conference is Saudi Arabia’s already announced NEOM project — a planned US$500 billion mega city.
The project includes a bridge spanning the Red Sea, connecting the proposed city to Africa. Some 10,000 square miles (25,900 square kilometers) — the size of Israel — have been allocated for the project - which will be close to the borders of Jordan and Egypt.
The opportunities for work and the prospects of enjoying happier and safer lives in being part of NEOM and other to-be announced projects would prove irresistible for Gaza and West Bank Arabs - fed up with decades of deprivation and suffering supposedly pursuing the goal of “ending the occupation” by creating another Arab State.
Hamas and PLO threats, objections and non-attendance will not see the Manama Conference cancelled.
Hamas and the PLO will be left to hang out and dry — having been responsible for prolonging the Jewish-Arab conflict that should have been resolved decades ago.
(Author’s note: The cartoon—commissioned exclusively for this article — is by Yaakov Kirschen aka “Dry Bones” — one of Israel’s foremost political and social commentators— whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades. His cartoons can be viewed at Drybonesblog)