June 18, 2019 / 2:14 PM / 4 months ago

Netanyahu welcomes Bahrain meeting, Israeli ex-general to attend

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised on Tuesday a U.S.-led conference on the Palestinian economy in Bahrain, and a source said a former Israeli general would be among the participants.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a special cabinet meeting in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights June 16, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

Netanyahu, echoing remarks on Sunday by his foreign minister, said Israelis would take part in the June 25-26 gathering, but did not identify them.

The White House decided against including the Israeli government in the June 25-26 event in Manama after the Palestinians boycotted it, making do instead with inviting a small Israeli business delegation.

U.S. officials have not formally announced those delegates.

“A very important conference, which we welcome, will be held in Bahrain very soon - a U.S. effort to bring about a better future and solve the region’s problems,” Netanyahu said in a speech on Tuesday. “Israelis will be present, of course.”

A person briefed on the gathering said Yoav Mordechai, a former general who served as Israel’s chief liaison officer to the Palestinians, will attend in a private capacity.

Israel Radio said a Israeli hospital director and several Israeli social activists were also expected to participate.

Mordechai stepped down as head of Israel’s military-run COGAT liaison agency last year and now heads Novard, an international consultancy.

He will be joined in Manama by his Novard partner, the source said, declining to identify the second man by name as he is also a veteran of Israel’s security services. 

Reached by phone, Novard declined comment.

Known to Israelis and Palestinians alike by his nickname Poly, the Arabic-fluent Mordechai was a dominant force in Israel’s efforts to coordinate security in the occupied West Bank and stave off fighting with the Gaza Strip’s Islamist Hamas rulers.

The United States has billed the Bahrain gathering as a workshop to boost the Palestinian economy as part of a broader effort by President Donald Trump’s administration to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian leaders have spurned the conference, alleging pro-Israeli bias from Washington and saying the still unpublished U.S. peace plan falls short of their goal of statehood.

Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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