Palestinian Authority Arrests Hebron Man Who Attended U.S.-led Bahrain Conference

Salah Abu Miala was arrested immediately after returning to Hebron, while another, Ashraf Ghanem, evaded authorities ■ On Sunday, U.S. Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted Abu Miala had been released

Palestinian demonstrators carry  banners and national flags during a protest against the US-sponsored Middle East economic conference in Bahrain, in Nablus, June 25, 2019.
AFP

Palestinian security forces arrested a Palestinian from Hebron on Friday night after he participated in the U.S.-led conference in Bahrain, Palestinian sources said. Early on Sunday U.S. envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt tweeted the businessman had been released.

According to reports on Palestinian news sites and social media, members of the Palestinian Authority's intelligence forces stopped Salah Abu Miala, who attended the conference, and arrested him immediately upon his return to the West Bank city.

Greenblatt tweeted on Sunday he was "pleased" at the alleged release of Abu Miala. "We look fwd to continuing our conversation w all who attended the workshop & anyone else who wants a better future for the Palestinians," he said. 

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The PA officially boycotted the conference, at which Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner revealed the economic component of the Trump Administration's Middle East peace plan. In May, PA Social Development Minister Ahmed Majdalani said that "any Palestinian who would take part would be be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel."

The head of the Shomron Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, defended Abu Miala on Saturday and sharply criticized the PA. Dagan called on the Israeli government to revoke the entry permits of all senior PA officials, calling them "terrorists" and "mafiosi."

He added that if participants of the Bahrain conference are detained, Israeli authorities should arrest Abbas.

After the conference a Palestinian report said PA forces surrounded the home of another participant, Ashraf Ghanem, also of Hebron, claiming that he is suspected of attacking a Palestinian businessman a year ago. Unlike Salah Abu Miala, Ghanem managed to evade them.

"The PA is a dictatorship in every way," Dagan said, "Anyone who supports it or speaks with it, including the Israeli government, the European Union and 'human rights' organizations, aid the neighborhood bully in hurting the innocent."

Dagan met with the Palestinian businessmen hours before they departed for Bahrain as part of the existing behind-the-scenes ties between regional councils and local Arab leaders that purportedly seek to create an alternative to terror and promote economic peace.

"The lie that the whole Western world is complicit in needs to stop," he said. "Abbas is a terrorist. This is how he treats Israel and this is how he treats the sons of his nation who try and change the paradigm and bring real peace."

The PA did not disclose of which crimes Abu Miala is suspected. In a conversation with Haaretz, Palestinian intelligence sources confirmed that the PA carried out these arrests in Hebron, but did not elaborate further. According to them, the decision to perform these mass arrests is made by the upper echelons in Ramallah.

A senior Fatah official told Haaretz that the arrests were well-received by the Palestinian public, especially considering that the targets are not leading businessmen, but rather mid-level merchants, and that their participation in the Bahrain conference was looked at as an act of opposition to the Palestinian nation as a whole.

A security official told Haaretz that the two participants are not capable of influencing the Palestinian economy in any meaningful way, but that the Americans sought out Palestinian merchants for the conference at any cost and branded them as businessmen to check off the Palestinian box at the confab.

About 15 Palestinian men from the West Bank and East Jerusalem participated in the "Peace to Prosperity" conference in Manama, Bahrain on Tuesday and Wednesday, not counting those who were there as official spokespeople.

They were led by Ashraf Jabari of Hebron, a controversial figure in Palestinian society for working with settlers at the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, among other things. Jabari met with Dagan before leaving for Bahrain and even hosted Dagan in his home in Hebron about a month ago to partake in an iftar meal to break the fast during Ramadan.

The small delegation was very tense each time their identities were revealed, and they requested that photographers not take their picture, even though the conference was open to the press and was livestreamed. They furiously confronted anyone who they suspected of documenting their presence.