At an economic conference in the Bahraini capital of Manama taking place on June 25 and 26, the White House intends to roll out the first half of its much-anticipated plan for resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian officials have already announced that they will not attend. While it would be foolish to pin high hopes on the conference, writes Raphael Ahren, it would likewise be wrong to dismiss its significance:
Bahrain co-issued an official statement [with the U.S.], saying next month’s “Peace to Prosperity workshop” will focus on an “achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region.” . . . [T]hat an Arab country, which has no formal ties with Israel and continues to pledge allegiance to the Palestinian cause, has agreed to put its name to the first part of the administration’s two-part peace plan is astonishing. . . .
Worth highlighting, too, is that Israel’s finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, is likely to be among the guests welcomed to this Arab capital. It’s not unprecedented for senior members of the Israeli cabinet to pay official visits to Arab countries. . . . But while [previous] ministerial visits were trailblazing, it bears noting that they took place in the context of events hosted by international organizations that may have punished [the respective hosts] had they excluded representatives of member states.
Kahlon’s expected participation in the Manama workshop would be of an entirely different nature. He would be welcomed in an Arab country not because its government would face sanctions otherwise, but with the explicit purpose of discussing the Trump administration’s peace efforts. . . . Bahrain’s willingness to host the “Peace to Prosperity” summit strongly indicates that the Arab world is more inclined to normalize ties with Israel than some may think. Even in the absence of the ultimate deal.