While former diplomats, foreign-policy experts, and political commentators mainly disparaged last week’s conference in Manama on how to improve the economic situation of the Palestinians, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld—a professor of management who participated in the gathering and chaired one of the panels—sees reasons for optimism. He writes:
I attended virtually every second of the formal and informal elements of this event. I did not hear even passing anti-Zionist comments, as much as I would have expected them in an atmosphere where Israel’s historic critics outnumbered its allies. . . .
At this conference, the prominent Palestinian business leader Ashraf Jabari, who heads a large clan in Hebron, explained how he has advanced bonds with Jewish settlers—even creating a business association for Palestinian and settlement businesses to work collaboratively. As he said on Wednesday, “I have no problem working with Israel. It is time to move on.” Smiling and nodding as he spoke were not only a dozen fellow Palestinian leaders but also the dozen Israeli business leaders present, including the shipping magnate Shlomi Fogel. . . .
Since then, I’ve learned what he put at risk by being there and speaking out. Sadly, another member of the Palestinian delegation was arrested by the Palestinian Authority (PA) at a family event upon returning home; other delegation members saw their homes raided. “The Palestinian Authority does not want peace. They told the families of the businessmen that they are wanted [by police] for participating in the Bahrain workshop,” Jabari told the Jerusalem Post, adding that the workshop was “a big success and that’s why [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas is very worried.”