Israel to attend U.S.-led Palestinian conference

Israel's acting foreign minister Israel Katz, who also serves as intelligence and transport minister, attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israelis will attend a U.S-led conference in Bahrain next week on proposals for the Palestinian economy as part of a coming peace plan, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Sunday.

The United States has billed the 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.

A source briefed on the event told Reuters Israel would send a business delegation but no government officials to the June 25-26 workshop, which is being boycotted by the Palestinian leadership.

"Israel will be at the Bahrain conference and all the coordinations will be made," Katz told Israeli Channel 13 News in New York.

On Twitter, Katz later added that Israel's representation had yet to be decided and that the country's high-tech and innovation capabilities could greatly benefit development in the region.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what level of representation Israel was expected to have at the conference.

U.S. officials have said they are inviting economy and finance ministers, as well as business leaders, to Bahrain to discuss investment in the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian leaders have spurned the conference, alleging pro-Israeli bias from Washington.

The Palestinians say the still unpublished U.S. peace plan falls short of their goal of statehood. They blame a halt in U.S. aid and Israeli restrictions for an economic crisis in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A White House official said on Tuesday that Egypt, Jordan and Morocco planned to attend the conference.

Egypt and Jordan's participation is considered particularly important because they have historically been major players in Middle East peace efforts and are the only Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel.

One of the sources briefed on the event told Reuters that U.S. and Bahrain had deliberated over whether a non-official Israeli presence was preferable to a government-level delegation, given that Israel currently has a caretaker government in place, pending a September election.

A second source said Israel would be sending a private business delegation.

Trump's plan faces delays due to political upheaval in Israel, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government last month and must fight a second election this year, set for Sept. 17.

Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said the unveiling of the peace plan may be delayed until November, when a new Israeli government is expected to be in place.

"Had the election not been called again perhaps we would have released it during the summer," Greenblatt said at a Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on Sunday.

"If we wanted to wait until a new government is formed we really do have to wait until potentially as late as November 6 but we'll decide that after Bahrain," said Greenblatt.


(Reporting by Dan Williams and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Steve Holland in Washington; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne/Mark Potter/Jane Merriman)