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Palestinian businessmen deem Bahrain conference a success, despite tussle with PA

Businessman Ashraf Al-Ghanem recounts that Palestinian Authority security forces raided his home in Hebron and attempted to arrest him for participation in the economic summit. Still, he says, discussion among nations in Manama proved beneficial.

Palestinian demonstrators protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan, and the "Peace to Prosperity" conference in Bahrain, in the West Bank city of Nablus on June 25, 2019. Photo by Hassan Jedi/Flash90.
Palestinian demonstrators protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan, and the "Peace to Prosperity" conference in Bahrain, in the West Bank city of Nablus on June 25, 2019. Photo by Hassan Jedi/Flash90.

Despite multiple raids and a detainment made by the Palestinian Authority against participants of the “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop in Manama, Bahrain, Ashraf Al-Ghanem says that he will remain strong and courageous. Al-Ghanem is the CEO of Al-Ghanem Furniture Company and a participant in last week’s workshop, making him a target of Palestinian Authority arrests.

While he told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that he feared for his life, by Tuesday, Al-Ghanem said, “I feel stronger than yesterday.”

His home was one of four raided and damaged by the Palestinian Authority in Hebron this week. Another Bahrain workshop participant and Hebron businessman, Salah Abu Mayala, detained for “betrayal” and released by the P.A. after receiving a threatening letter from the U.S. embassy.

According to Al-Ghanem, P.A. security forces also attempted to arrest him as they raided his home. “They came on a Friday at 10 p.m.,” he explained at a Jerusalem press conference. “I was not far from home when a Palestinian officer called from my brother’s phone, saying that I was wanted for participation in the Bahrain workshop. They remained at my home for three hours, confiscated personal materials, my ID card, passport and credit cards.”

After hearing of the raid, Al-Ghanem called Ashraf Jabari, head of the 15-person Palestinian delegation to Bahrain, as well as part of the Palestinian Businessmen Forum in Hebron.

According to Jabari, the raids and detainment were illegal under Palestinian basic law. “There is no charter in any law that says a Palestinian businessman is not allowed to take part in an economic workshop [to which] he was personally invited,” he stated.

Jabari informed his legal adviser and an Israeli local news channel, and within hours, he said, American officials and a human-rights NGO called him offering their help.

Ashraf Al Jabari, co-founder of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce, which aims to strengthen economic cooperation between Palestinians and Jews in the West Bank. Credit: Eliana Rudee.

‘Arab investors excited about cooperation’

Despite the arrest and raids, Al-Ghanem and Jabari deemed the Bahrain conference a success.

Representatives from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Morocco, the United States and the United Kingdom were present at the workshop.

The willingness of all representatives to cooperate towards economic possibilities and regional defense was “not just a feeling,” Jabari told JNS. “I witnessed it,” he declared. “I saw how Arab investors were excited about cooperation and private development projects.”

“We had the opportunity to meet with the senior people and counterparts in the region,” he reported. “Every participant confirmed their goal to help strengthen the Palestinian economy and towards development.”

David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, who was also present at the Bahrain conference, said on Twitter that during a meeting with a top Arab leader, he was told that working towards a peace plan with the Palestinian Authority is “no longer a priority,” as Arab countries prefer to work with Israel on strategic and economic ties.

“It was really unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority as the official representative [of the Palestinian people] did not attend. We feel sorry for them not taking part in this workshop,” said Jabari, noting that the P.A. “rejected the workshop without even knowing what it was all about.”

According to Jabari, it was clear in Bahrain, as announced by Jared Kushner, son-in-law of and senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, that “it was a plan of regional development—a purely development plan for the Palestinian economy,” and not part of the Mideast peace plan per se.

“We are talking business,” he added. “If you don’t have a strong economy, you can’t have a strong state.”

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