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Palestinians arrest, then free Hebron businessman for attending Bahrain conference

A Palestinian businessman was arrested after he returned home from attending the American-led summit in Bahrain last week in which the first part of President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East was revealed.

The Palestinian Authority officially boycotted the summit, but a cadre of Palestinian businessmen, who were interested to hear of the economic plans put forth by the U.S., attended the event on their own.

Saleh Abu Mayala was arrested when he returned to the West Bank and was released a few days later, according to Ashraf Jabari, a businessman from Hebron who spoke at the summit. 

“What happened with the arrest was very unfortunate, but I believe this matter has come to an end,” Jabari said. “We did not break any laws by attending the conference.”

The American Embassy in Jerusalem declined to comment as to whether the U.S. pressured the PA to release Abu Mayala.

Apparently, a list of Palestinians who attended the event was circulated on Palestinian social media and PA police attempted to arrest another attendee, Palestinian businessman Ashraf Ghanam. He evaded arrest by fleeing to an Israeli-controlled city according to another Palestinian businessman who attended the summit.

“We are being pursued and threatened. All of us are in a precarious position,” he said on condition of anonymity. “Why is it that people working on advancing peace and building a better future receive this type of treatment?”

The conference was centered on the economic plans put forth by the U.S. focusing on bolstering the Palestinian economy with $50 billion of investment over the next 10 years.

Palestinians, however, say that a political solution must precede an economic plan. 

“National rights are not pieces of real estate that are purchased and sold and that arriving at a political solution that guarantees freedom, dignity, independence and justice for our people must precede any economic programs or projects because that will create stability and security for everyone,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas said. “For that reason, the State of Palestine did not participate in the American workshop that took place two days ago in Manama.”

Meanwhile in further pushback, a mayor in the West Bank renamed a street in his town to protest Bahrain’s hosting the summit from “Bahrain Street” to Marzouq al-Ghanim Street. Ghanim, from Kuwait, is an ardent critic of Israel.

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