With the Palestinian Authority facing a financial crisis and economic challenges, one might think its leaders would be eager to attend the upcoming "Peace to Prosperity" workshop in Bahrain this month. After all, the conference is about providing a transformative economic roadmap for the Palestinian people in the context of a conflict-ending, signed political agreement with Israel.
Instead, Palestinian Liberation Organization Secretary-General and chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, announced "a collective" boycott on behalf of "all Palestinian political movements and factions, national figures, private sector and civil society." Ahmed Majdalani, the PLO's social development minister, took it further, threatening to brand any Palestinian who attends a "collaborator for the Americans and Israel" and "a traitor."
That Erekat and the PA are so invested in torpedoing a conference that aims to improve their own people's lives is yet another remarkable example of Palestinians cutting off their nose to spite their face. Recall that Israel's onetime foreign minister, Abba Eban, quipped about Palestinians "never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity" way back in 1973.
Then-Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan also recognized this pattern in 2001, hours before PA President Yasser Arafat met with President Bill Clinton to deliver his response to the now-famous Clinton Peace Parameters.
"Since 1948, every time we've had something on the table we say no. Then we say yes," Prince Bandar told Arafat. "Isn't it about time we said yes?" Recounting the exchange in a 2003 interview in the The New Yorker, Prince Bandar described Arafat's rejection of the Clinton Parameters hours later as not only a crime against the Palestinians but against the entire region.
Yet the PA's comfort with the status quo today, coupled with its calcified talking points, which remain unchanged since that winter morning in Washington, do not bode well for the future prospects of a Palestinian-Israeli peace.
Erekat did propose his own "remedy" in The New York Times, after he repeated a well-worn litany of grievances and half-truths while throwing cold water on the idea of the economic conference: The international community needs to hold Israel "accountable for its violations of international law" and "immediately recognize the state of Palestine."
That represents a continuation of the Palestinian strategy: Bypass direct negotiations and seek from the international community what can't be extracted from Israel. In the meantime, delegitimize Israel.
Such an approach accords with the Palestinian belief that Israel's birth was a sin. It also imposes an increasing cost on Israel over time.
And the PA's leaders have seen some success in this effort with the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, their joining the International Criminal Court, receiving some member-state-like perks in the UN General Assembly and working through the unconscionably biased UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to declare Jewish heritage sites as Palestinian.
Add it all up and it leaves the PA wedded to the status quo. Its leaders will likely remain impervious even to the kind of "outside-in" pressure from Arab leaders in the region that Team Trump may be hoping for to push its peace plan. Recall that Clinton relied on such pressure, too, when he had Bandar nudge Arafat in 2001.
It doesn't even seem to matter if the Palestinian people themselves would now accept the 2000-01 peace deal. Jared Kushner's recent attempt to tell Palestinians directly that they shouldn't allow their grandfather's conflict to determine their children's future may have fallen on deaf ears.
Unfortunately, PA leaders appear convinced that time is on their side, and that belief prevents them from rising to the occasion to secure a better future for their people. Fact is, the economic workshop in Bahrain is yet another opportunity for Palestinians to seize the moment and make progress, but as Abba Eban would say, it will likely be another opportunity missed.
Those who profess to be pro-Palestinian, should do all they can to ensure the success of the gathering and, most important, push PA leaders to get on board, rather than bolstering their contention that continued obstruction will somehow, one day pay future dividends. Getting Palestinians to reject the idea of an endless standoff is a first step toward an Israeli-Palestinian deal.