Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
During June 25-26, Kingdom of Bahrain’s capital Manama will be hosting one of the most significant events of the year. According to the White House, this conference will bring together government and business leaders from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and few more countries have agreed to attend the unveiling of the economic component of a new US peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to diplomatic analysts, the United States is leading a process of regional economic cooperation for the benefit of the entire Middle East. This includes promoting ties with the pragmatic Arab countries in the region, via security cooperation and joint economic initiatives. A central part of these efforts is the planned Bahrain ‘Peace to Prosperity’ economic workshop.
The US administration and Bahrain announced in mid-May that they would host the economic workshop in the Bahraini capital of Manama in late June and that it “will facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region”.
American officials have said that the meeting will deal with the economic portion of its apparently forthcoming plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a plan whose unveiling has been delayed by political instability inside Israel.
Jason D. Greenblatt, an assistant to President Donald Trump and special representative for international negotiations said, “This is exciting — an opportunity of a generation. We are grateful to the Kingdom of Bahrain for extending the invitation to us to host the June 25 and 26 workshop with them for the benefit of Palestinians and others in the region, offering us a unique opportunity to communicate our economic vision”.
He said, “The workshop is a pivotal opportunity to convene government, civil society, and business leaders to share ideas, discuss strategies, and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement.
“This workshop will facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for Palestinians, including enhancements to economic governance, development of human capital, and facilitation of rapid private-sector growth. The results of those discussions could lead to significant investment in the talented Palestinian and regional population”.
History shows that most international conferences on the Israeli-Arab conflict have focused on the search for a diplomatic solution. Such was the case with the Lausanne Conference (1949), the Geneva Conference (1973), the Madrid Conference (1991), the Annapolis Conference (2007) and more. On the other hand, the four regional conferences held between 1994 and 1997, including the multilateral negotiations on issues of water, the environment, arms control, and refugees, were closely aligned with the diplomatic process (the Oslo Accords and the peace treaty with Jordan) and designed to strengthen and entrench it. The collapse of the Oslo process meant also the demise of the multilateral track.
In the recent years, especially because of dynamic efforts initiated by Bahrain’s ruler Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Manama has already built the image of one of the very few nations in the Middle East, which has been wholeheartedly promoting peace and stability. On the other hand, Bahrain is a time-tested ally of Saudi Arabia and the United States while ever since the signing of a defense pact between Manama and Washington and a free trade agreement in 2006, hundreds of US firms already are operating in Bahrain. Moreover, the US Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Manama, evidently proving the existing warm relations between Bahrain and the US. The upcoming conference would open a new vista of opportunity for the US and Middle Eastern companies, especially the Saudi companies in further strengthening the existing cordial relations with Bahrain by boosting trade and investment.
One of the most important points about Bahrain is, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has taken personal initiatives in ensuring that his country does not support anti-Semitism or religious extremism.
The kingdom also has inter-faith relations with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and in December 2018, it named Rabbi Marc Schneier as special adviser to the king on the Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence that he had founded in Manama. Schneier has been working for the past 15 years to create inter-faith bridges between Israel, the Gulf States and especially Bahrain.
The Manama center, in cooperation with the Wiesenthal Center, organized an interfaith visit of 24 clerics from Bahrain to Israel in December 2017. The visit took place although US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital just days earlier. Houda Ezra Nonoo, a Jewish Bahraini woman, served as her country’s ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2013. All these places Bahrain in an excellent position to host Trump’s economic summit, which in any case fits in with the kingdom’s defense and economic interests.
One of the key points centering the upcoming Bahrain Peace Conference is the sincerest willingness of the Trump administration and the rulers of Bahrain is ensuring peace and stability in the Middle East, which is crucial for each of the nations in that part of the world.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter at Salah_Shoaib