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US promise of Palestinian ‘prosperity’ falls flat at UN

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UNITED NATIONS, MAY 22 2019 — The Trump administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan drew criticism at the United Nations Wednesday, with European and UN officials saying Palestinians should not be coerced into selling off rights to run their own country.

Addressing the UN’s top body in New York, Jason Greenblatt, the United States envoy on the Middle East, talked up a meeting about boosting the Palestinian economy in Bahrain next month that marks the start of a new US-led peace initiative.

The “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop, to be held in Manama on June 25-26 and co-hosted with the US, has already been rebuffed by Palestinian officials and business leaders who want their political demands to be addressed in any solution to the decades-old conflict.

“This is the first stage of a process that we want to begin to showcase what could be,” Greenblatt told council members, saying the Bahrain meeting had the “potential to unlock a prosperous future for the Palestinians.”

(Cartoon: Carlos Latuff)

(Cartoon: Carlos Latuff)

“How, if we can achieve a political solution to the conflict, we could also transform the lives of the Palestinians. It would be a mistake for the Palestinians not to join us. They have nothing to lose and much to gain if they do join us.”

Greenblatt and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner have spent two years developing a peace proposal that they say could provide a framework for fresh talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Their proposal, which has been delayed for a variety of reasons these past 18 months, is expected to address core political issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, and drive billions of dollars from the oil-rich Gulf into Palestinian projects.

But Palestinian officials view the so-called “deal of the century” as a sop to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that will nix their plans to create their own state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — all territory Israel captured in 1967.

Controversially, the proposal is understood to ditch reference to the creation of a Palestinian state, which has been a bedrock of US policy and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for more than two decades.

Greenblatt’s comments were met with scepticism in New York.

“Only a two-state solution can meet the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians and deliver sustainable peace and security,” said Germany’s UN ambassador Christoph Heusgen.

“It is indispensable that a solution is negotiated and guarantees the right to self-determination also for the Palestinians.”

France’s UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, said Paris would only back plans that stuck to a long-established framework of Palestinians getting more than financial support but also end up running their own country

“France stands ready to support any effort, including economic, as long as it fits in the perspective we have defined together: the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state, a true condition for the economic growth of the country,” Delattre said.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN coordinator for Middle East peace, said more funding for Palestinians was welcome, but that it was no substitute for a deal that tackled long-standing disagreements between the two sides.

“Humanitarian and economic support is very important for people, as well as for creating an environment conducive for viable negotiations. However, the solution to the conflict remains a fundamentally political process,” Mladenov said.

Palestinian officials have boycotted US peace efforts since late 2017 when Trump decided to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing decades of US policy.

Without naming the US, deputy Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, said she rejected efforts to force an “unfair compromise” on the Palestinians through “financial and political pressures”.

“The vision that will offer Palestinians new opportunities to realize their full potential is one in which independence is the centerpiece,” Abdelhady-Nasser told envoys.

The Trump administration has sought to enlist support from Arab governments for its plan, which is likely to call for billions of dollars in finance for the Palestinians from the Gulf, according to sources. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have said they will attend talks in Bahrain.

In New York, Greenblatt also called for dismantling the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, saying it was a “Band Aid” solution and that its services should be run instead by charities, the UN or governments of host countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon.

Speaking via video-link from Gaza, UNRWA chief Pierre Krähenbühl said the agency was “running on fumes” after plugging a $446m deficit last year through budget cuts and new donor contributions.

James Reinl

James Reinl is a journalist, editor and current affairs analyst. He has reported from more than 35 countries and won awards for covering wars in Sri Lanka, Congo and Somalia, Haiti’s earthquake and human rights abuses in Iran. His work has appeared on PRI's The World, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Fox News, France 24, CBC, CBS News, dpa, RTÉ, The Times, The National, Monocle and APTN.

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15 Responses

  1. Citizen on May 22, 2019, 5:00 pm

    UNWRA is key showing what’s up.

  2. Kay24 on May 22, 2019, 5:50 pm

    Of course Saudi Arabia and the UAE will be there with bells on. After all what other way can you show BFF Kushner and the zionists, that you are willing to throw the Palestinians under the bus, and will ignore the fact that Kushner has handed the zionists all that their greedy hearts have stolen or built on, leaving the victims with NOTHING?
    That advice Kushner gives Bin Salman, must be really valuable.

    • annie on May 23, 2019, 12:24 am

      saudi arabia and UAE want war with iran, that’s what kushner is dangling.

      • Misterioso on May 23, 2019, 9:58 am


        “Saudi Arabia and UAE want war with iran, that’s what Kushner is dangling.”

        However, America’s generals have made it clear to Trump that a war in the Strait of Hormuz would have no winners, only losers.

      • Misterioso on May 23, 2019, 10:30 am


        More grist for the mill:

        “Trump orders aides to avoid open conflict with Iran: Report” Press TV, May 17/19

        “US President Donald Trump has ordered his administration to avoid a military confrontation with Iran, the New York Times and Reuters have reported.

        “The Times reported Friday that Trump, during a Wednesday morning meeting in the Situation Room, sent a message to his hawkish aides that he does not want the US pressure campaign against Iran to explode into an open conflict.

        “‘Trump was firm in saying he did not want a military clash with the Iranians,’ read the paper citing five senior officials who described the administration’s internal debate over Iran.

        “The account was echoed by Reuters news agency which said Trump had communicated to his national security team and other aides to avoid an armed conflict.

        “’He doesn’t want to go to war. It’s not who he is,’ said one official speaking on condition of anonymity.

        “The report cited anonymous officials informed on the matter as saying that Trump had privately expressed concern that some of his advisers, such a John Bolton, were pushing for war.

        “Trump’s order comes a week after Bolton announced that the US was sending an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to counter a ‘threat’ from Tehran.

        “Hawks in Trump’s team have reportedly gone as far as drawing up plans for a possible military strike that could involve sending 120,000 soldiers to the Middle East.

        “American lawmakers from both parties have expressed frustration about the administration’s increasing war rhetoric and lacking consultation with Congress.

        “In a move to quell lawmakers’ frustration, administration officials held a briefing for the Senate and House leaders from both parties later on Thursday.

        “Following the session, Democrat Senator Richard Durbin said, ‘It’s a situation where this president has surrounded himself with people, Pompeo and Bolton in particular, who believe that getting tough on a military basis with Iran is in our best interest.’

        “Various reports in the past two weeks have said that Trump has been specifically at odds with Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over their push for military confrontation with Iran.

        “Earlier this week, US media reported that Trump was considering replacing Bolton.”

      • oldgeezer on May 23, 2019, 11:05 am


        That might be good news but I’m too great a cynic to take it at face value. We will see if he fires or restrains the efforts of Bolton and Pompeo.

        This really could be just another step along the road to war.

        In 6 weeks time a press conference is held. The WH spokesman says it is common knowledge that the pres ordered officials to avoid confrontation.And they have constantly tried but Iran keeps provoking us leaving the pres with no further options.

        In short just a way to create a ‘fact’ for later use.

    • Sibiriak on May 24, 2019, 11:48 pm

      Pompeo confirms $8.1bn arms sales to Arab nations without Congress approval to ‘deter Iran’

      War, it’s a racket.

      • Kay24 on May 25, 2019, 4:38 pm

        It is indeed. It can make human beings ignore the cost in human lives, and and an entire nation left in rubble. The US war in Iraq has destabilized the entire region, and beyond. We should be ashamed that this unnecessary war, was done in our name, and that millions of helpless human beings are dead, injured, and homeless.
        Trump has bypassed Congress and sent his wealthy buddies more weapons to bomb already starving people. We can only wonder what the Trump family is getting in return.
        Saudi Arabia has become a despicable nation, and it keeps company with equally despicable nations, and they all keep conspiring and covering up each other’s crimes.

  3. seancbreathnach on May 23, 2019, 7:29 am

    “Only a two-state solution can meet the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians and deliver sustainable peace and security,” said Germany’s UN ambassador Christoph Heusgen.

    Unfortunately the two-state solution is long gone, as any serious onlooker of the Israel/Palestinian conflict will tell you. Those who continue with the two-state charade are misguided.

    • Misterioso on May 23, 2019, 10:04 am

      @seancbreathnach, et al

      Very interesting:

      “Was that the next Palestinian president you just banned, Mr. Trump?” Redress Information & Analysis, May 20/19, by Stuart Littlewood.

      “Grandma Ashrawi is more than a match for Israel’s stooges in the White House and whatever ‘deal of the century’ they have cooked up for the Holy Land.”

      “So, the Trump administration will no longer allow Hanan Ashrawi into the US, even though she’s a top diplomat, has family there and visits regularly. Why?

      “A US State Department spokesperson told Haaretz that ‘visa records are confidential under US law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases,’ adding that the law ‘does not authorise the refusal of visas based solely on political statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States.’

      “Pettiness and vindictiveness”
      “Ashrawi is reported as saying, in her forthright way, that refusal to let her in was a political act and full of ‘pettiness and vindictiveness.’

      “Ashrawi, a Palestinian Christian, is something of a hot potato. She was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council representing Jerusalem in 1996 and again in 2006. She has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for 20 years, becoming the first woman to hold a seat in the highest executive body in Palestine. It is recognised as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the 137 states with which it has diplomatic relations. Ashrawi’s father, a physician, was a founder of the PLO.

      “She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in literature from the Department of English at the American University of Beirut and completed her education with a PhD in Medieval and Comparative Literature from the University of Virginia. She is also an Honorary Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford.

      “Ashrawi has been an official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process, starting with the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991. In 1996 she was appointed as the Palestinian Authority Minister of Higher Education and Research. Before that she was Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Birzeit University.

      “In 2003 Ashrawi received the Sydney Peace Prize, an award praised by, among others, Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State. Albright called Ashrawi ‘a brilliant spokeswoman for her cause.’

      “Ashrawi, now 72, is a grandmother, and several of her grandchildren live in the United States. So, why is America hostile towards her?

      “Israeli occupation ‘a most pervasive form of oppression, dispossession and denial’

      “In a recent article in Aljazeera Marwan Bishara reminds us that for the past year and a half Trump and his administration have been showering Binyamin Netanyahu and his apartheid regime with anti-Palestinian ‘gifts’… like recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv, ending US assistance to UNRWA (the UN agency that supports millions of Palestinian refugees), quitting the UN Human Rights Council and shutting down the PLO’s office in Washington.

      “As if that wasn’t enough, the Trump administration has stopped describing the West Bank and East Jerusalem (which are Palestinian) as ‘occupied’ and instead calls them ‘Israeli-controlled.’ This gives Netanyahu all the encouragement he needs for expanding Israel’s illegal settlements and pledging to annex them. To cap it all, Trump then delivered Netanyahu a splendid election present in recognising Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights. Of course, whatever Trump says that territory is still Syria’s.

      “Western media, when providing ‘balance’ to news on the Israel-Palestine conflict, usually wheel in a Palestinian spokesperson who is unintelligible. Israeli spokespersons, on the other hand, are media trained and sound very British/American, giving them a huge advantage. Ashrawi has perfect English and is a highly articulate and persuasive woman – an unrivalled expert in Middle East affairs – and capable of reducing Trump and his entourage to mincemeat in any broadcast encounter. Therefore, she poses a clear and present danger to their hopes of putting across and maintaining the false narrative that sustains Israel’s rogue dominance in the Middle East.

      “This is one formidable lady! I have her down as the next Palestinian president, head and shoulders above any male candidates. But will the good people of Palestine have a say in the matter? The presidency of Mahmoud Abbas, the quisling loser, should have ended in 2009. But the corrupt system he presides over has allowed him to cling to power indefinitely, to his people’s great detriment.”

  4. Misterioso on May 23, 2019, 9:35 am

    An informative read:

    “How Trump’s Approach to the Middle East Ignores the Past, the Future, and the Human Condition” Arab America, May 22/19, by Shibley Telhami.*

    “President Trump’s son-in-law and top Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, pushed back recently against suggestions that the administration should hold off on its expected ‘deal of the century’ plan for Middle East peace over concerns that it’s likely to be dead on arrival. As part of the unveiling, the administration revealed plans to hold an ‘economic workshop’ in Bahrain to discuss ‘potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement.’ Immediately rejecting the idea, the Palestinians called it an attempt ‘at promoting an economic normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.’

    “While the specific details of the Trump plan remain unknown, we already know the troubling principles on which the plan is based. Details aside, Trump’s approach not only breaks with international law and long-held U.S. policies, but it also enshrines historic U.S. responsibility in an unjust process that will ultimately backfire against Israel, the Palestinians, and American interests.

    “Let’s start with the principles of the approach as revealed by Kushner and other members of Trump’s team. While ignoring prior peace agreements, U.N. resolutions, and international law, Trump’s approach is anchored on three flawed principles: ‘realities’ on the ground as they are, appeal to ethnic/religious justifications of Israeli control of occupied territories, and economic incentives to appease Palestinian political aspirations. The first ignores the history of the U.S. role in creating these realities; the second ignores the future consequences of framing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as an ethnic/religious conflict, instead of a nationalist conflict; the third misses not only the nature of the Palestinian struggle but of the human condition.

    “Without the weight of international law and United Nations resolutions, the ‘realities’ on the ground are hugely advantageous to Israel: Palestinians remain stateless and under occupation. To varying degrees, Israel controls all Palestinian territories, with expanding Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. While the Palestinians have limited security forces and armed militias, Israel commands the strongest army in the region and its GDP is 23 times the size of that of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

    “Some of these realities are in large part due to historic U.S. support for Israel. To be sure, multiple U.S. administrations have engaged in good-faith efforts to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, sometimes promisingly. And the blame for failure must be spread, including to Israelis, Palestinians, and other Arabs. But the core American empowerment of Israel has remained largely consistent throughout.

    “Much is made of the $3.8 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel—more than all of the combined American security aid to the rest of the world. But the biggest assistance to Israel is not financial. Three U.S. strategic assets have particularly shielded Israel from feeling meaningful regional or international heat over its occupation of Palestinian territories and constructing illegal settlements there.

    “One big asset favoring Israel is the American mediation of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt 40 years ago and expending much leverage to maintain them since. These accords have arguably served Israeli, Egyptian, and American interests. They have also substantially reduced the chance of Egyptian-Israeli war (a good thing). But they also reduced the leverage in favor of Israeli compromise toward the Palestinians—the opposite of what President Jimmy Carter had hoped for, and an aspect over which he now expresses some ‘lingering disappointment.’

    “Second, the United States has shielded Israel at the United Nations. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, a majority of vetoes employed by the U.S. at the U.N. Security Council pertained to Israel—43. It is reasonable to assume that, had it not been for the U.S. threat of veto, illegal Israeli settlements would have been sanctioned by the international community.
    Third, the Israeli military’s upper hand is in part due to its success in building an effective organization; in only a few decades, Israelis have built a successful and prosperous advanced state. But there should be no illusion. The upper hand that Israel has over combined regional armies, and maybe even Russian forces in Syria, is principally a function of one thing: U.S. commitment to provide Israel with the cutting edge technology to assure its qualitative military edge over anyone else.

    “Aid has made Israel more secure, as intended. It has often served mutual Israeli and American interests. But one argument for the unparalleled level of support has been that a secure Israel will be better able to compromise. Instead, aid has created more asymmetry with reduced Israeli incentive to adhere to international law and to compromise.

    “All this to say that the historic American commitment to Israel, manifesting itself in unparalleled backing, means the U.S. has a responsibility to mitigate the resulting asymmetric realities through fair efforts. Instead, Trump promises not only to enshrine the deep inequality but also to deploy the assets of a superpower to sway the weaker party, including by withholding humanitarian aid as an instrument of political pressure

    “Beyond ‘realities’ that ignore the past, Trump’s approach embraces a dangerous framing of the conflict as a religious/ethnic conflict with no end in sight. Trump advisers’ justification of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Israeli sovereignty over a unified Jerusalem with reference to faith and biblical claims is both wrong and dangerous. It is wrong because—even as everyone is entitled to their own faith and religious narrative—such narratives cannot be the basis of political sovereignty in our time. And it’s dangerous because it pits ‘Jewish’ and ‘Christian’ narratives against Muslim/Arab narratives, assuring decades of conflict with little hope for compromise.

    “Sure, Arab governments will always do what’s good for them and their own states, and their priorities may incline them to swallow hard and acquiesce. But consider this: Despite 40 years of effective state-to-state peace between Israel and Egypt—and 24 years of peace between Israel and Jordan—the Jordanians and Egyptians reject ‘normalization’ with Israel and largely consider Israel as their enemy. Sure, Egyptians and Jordanians (like others in Arab countries) may identify with their own states first. But they will never stop being also Arab and (mostly) Muslim—identities that are emphasized especially as Israel has increasingly defined its character in religious/ethnic terms.

    “Peace with Palestinians that addresses their political aspirations and yearnings for freedom is Israel’s path to acceptance by Arab and Muslim masses; without an Israeli-Palestinian peace, it’s a Jewish-Muslim or an Arab-Israeli conflict for decades to come.

    “As Kushner counsels dropping talk of two states—and certainly would reject full equality of Palestinians and Israelis as an alternative—all the economic incentives that Trump may offer Palestinians could never satisfy their yearnings. In the hopeful days of the 1990s, a great deal was invested in such ambitious projects as Bethlehem 2000. When political negotiations collapsed, violence erupted, and investments went up in flames. To assume that the promise of economic improvement would outweigh ordinary human aspirations of a people who have painfully struggled for decades is to miss the nature of the human condition.

    “Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab leaders share the blame for the absence of peace. But the American role is inescapable. Details aside, the principles of Trump’s approach implicate the U.S. in a hopeless path that plants the seeds of more trouble ahead. There will be no winners here, only losers, some more than others.”

    *Shibley Telhami is the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and is a nonresident senior fellow in the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, as well as the Center for Middle East Policy, and the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. In the past, Telhami served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Department of State, advisor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, advisor to Congressman Lee Hamilton, and as a member of the Iraq Study Group. This Article first appeared with the Brookings Institution.

  5. Marnie on May 23, 2019, 11:19 pm

    I hope the palestinians make no ‘deals’ with the u.s. or israel, not because they aren’t trustworthy partners in a peace plan, but specifically because they aren’t trustworthy partners in a peace place. Constantly moving the goals and changing the rules at the whims of netanyahoo and his criminal gang of thieves and murderers, and the fresh scrubbed face of jared kushner, who is nothing more than a scalawag, carpetbagger SOB with interests only in what’s ultimately best for him. It’s long past the time for the u.n. to cut the united states loose and fill in the numerous gaps left by this particular president and his SOB son-in-law advisor. They believe if they throw enough money at the palestinians they’ll give up their decades long fight for an independent state of their own. Unlike the tRUMP cabinent and anyone associated with the tRUMPs and Kushners, not everyone can be pimped.

    • oldgeezer on May 24, 2019, 10:06 am

      I totally agree with you marnie. I hope they don’t find themselves forced to make an agreement with Israel/US. No sane person would. They’ve been proven themselves to be untrustworthy in such agreements. Even signed agreements don’t hold any weight when they decide they will merely ignore them.

  6. edwardm on May 24, 2019, 9:00 pm

    “France stands ready to support any effort, including economic, as long as it fits in the perspective we have defined together: the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state, a true condition for the economic growth of the country,”
    but “viable” means having water,arable land,contiguity,some means to have an economy. And borders with a country other than Israel, instead of being surrounded on all sides by a hostile nation. Treading water STILL –

    Same old wine, in a brand new bottle.

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