At this week’s conference, the Trump administration hopes to draw pledges from business leaders and wealthy Gulf states to fund its economic plan, which calls for $50 million of investment and infrastructure projects in the West Bank, Gaza and neighboring Arab countries with large populations of Palestinian refugees.
“Palestine is not for sale!” protesters chanted as they filled the streets of major West Bank cities. “From Bahrain to Saudi Arabia we are not tempted by your millions!”
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and various Gulf states have sent finance officials to the workshop. The White House says it did not invite Israeli representatives, so as to keep the event “apolitical.” The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has rejected the plan and wants nothing to do with the conference, arguing that an economic proposal cannot pre-empt a political resolution that addresses its long-standing demand for statehood.
Thousands across the West Bank held up signs saying “Down with the Bahrain conference!” and “Do not sell the Palestinian cause and erase our identity.”
Scattered clashes erupted as demonstrators hurled stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired back tear gas and rubber-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In the northern city of Nablus, protesters hanged an effigy of President Trump from a column. In Bethlehem, the protesters’ donkey took center stage, its backside covered with the crossed-out faces of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who are viewed as supporting the White House’s efforts.
Multiple Palestinian factions have called for continued mass rallies across the West Bank and Gaza Strip to coincide with the conference, set to begin Tuesday night.
In Gaza, stores and public institutions shuttered Tuesday in observance of a general strike.
A black-and-white banner calling for a strike replaced the usually illuminated billboard over the central Omar al-Mukhtar street in Gaza City.
Residents of the impoverished territory, where unemployment exceeds 50%, voiced opposition to the Trump team’s ambitious proposal, which envisions health, education and public works projects but does not deal with the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank or blockade of Gaza.
“We don’t need money. We are not hungry for bread. We are hungry for dignity,” said Gaza physician Said Jadba. “When we get (our dignity) we will be among the richest countries.”
“They are selling the remainder of the Palestinian cause,” said Gaza City resident Abu Atef Ellaw. “This will never pass.”