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The Bahrain conference: what did, and didn’t, happen

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After two days of panels, speeches, and meetings, the US-led “Peace to Prosperity” conference in Manama, Bahrain, wound down on Wednesday evening. 

The widely-anticipated and hotly-contested “economic workshop” for Israeli-Palestinian peace featured the first unveiling of Jared Kushner’s plans for Palestinians.

His proposal? Investing upwards of $50 billion in the Palestinian territories and neighboring Arab states over the course of 10 years, the creation of more than 1 million Palestinian jobs, and slashing the unemployment rates in Gaza and the West Bank.

After the closing of the conference, Kushner hailed it as a “tremendous success,” telling a Saudi newspaper that his “very detailed and reasonable plan was well received by attendees” from all over the world, the Times of Israel reported

During the conference, Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa likened the event to the Camp David Accords. 

But media reports on the conference painted a different picture of the event, telling the story of a rather lackluster reception to Kushner’s ideas and overall skepticism regarding the feasibility of the plan. 

 

Mixed reviews 

Al Jazeera reported that during the opening session of the conference, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde cast doubt on the ability to generate the kind of economic growth Kushner proposed in conflict environments like Gaza and the West Bank. 

Haaretz reported that at the closing of the conference, Lagarde said the IMF was “ready to work with all parties on policies to maximize the benefits of new investment in the region,” but that any plan for economic prosperity hinges on a political solution to the conflict, and that Israel would have to ease its restrictions on Palestinians. 

“Peace, political stability, and re-establishment of trust between all the parties involved are essential prerequisites to the success of any economic plan for the region,” she said. 

During a break at the conference, Al Jazeera reported that an unnamed Dubai-based businesswoman suggested Kushner’s plans were too ambitious, saying that when similar efforts like Oslo were undertaken, “that didn’t work out – and that was because of the Israelis.”

“You can’t assume the economics will work if the politics don’t move,” the businesswoman said. 

Also invoking the Oslo Accords, Saudi minister of state Mohammed Al-Sheikh reminded a panel that similar efforts to Kushner’s had been tried and failed in the 1990s.  

“While I accept that peace is essential, back then it was the hope of peace that got them actually excited and moving,” Al-Sheikh said.

Some attendees did express positive reactions to the conference, including UAE real estate mogul Mohammed Alabbar who said, according to Reuters’ report, “Arabs like him were ready to invest.”

“This is a very sensible kind of dream and one would’ve hoped the beneficiaries would’ve been here,” he said.

“I think that if we take this seriously this could be a very important game changer,” Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa told journalists at the conference. 

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders who boycotted the conference reiterated their condemnations of the event. 

In a statement, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) accused the US of trying to sell a “mirage of economic prosperity” that would in reality “only perpetuate the Palestinians’ captivity.”

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh criticized the Arab leaders attending the conference, Al Jazeera reported, saying “The (Palestinian) people, who have been fighting for one hundred years, did not commission anyone to concede or to bargain. Jerusalem is ours, the land is ours, and everything is ours.”

In response to Kushner’s message to the Palestinian people that “President Trump and America have not given up on you”, PLO official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement: “If the U.S. is so concerned about Palestinian well-being, then why did they carry out these punitive measures against us? Why did they target Palestinian infrastructure? Why did they stop scholarships to Palestinian students?”

Widespread protests across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against the plan continued into the weekend, with the Gaza Ministry of Health reporting on Friday evening that Israeli forces had shot 49 civilians, including medics and journalists, during demonstrations along the Gaza border. 

 

Where is the political solution?

By the end of the conference, not much had been achieved in terms of solid commitment by Arab and international leaders to investing in Kushner’s plan, despite some positive reactions to the proposal.

Many countries sent delegations of relatively low-level ministers and officials, indicating the general air of uncertainty towards the proposal, several media outlets, though noting there was a diverse representation of international and regional officials at the event.

While there was no general consensus regarding the feasibility of the plan, there was one common understanding among everyone, including Israeli officials: it would be difficult to commit to Kushner’s economic proposals so long as his political plans remained a secret. 

Kushner acknowledged the need for a political solution to work in conjunction with his economic plans, but remained tight lipped on the details of his other plans.  

Saudi Arabian leaders reiterated their position, held by most Arab states, that any solution should be based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for a Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders, the right of return for refugees, and a capital in East Jerusalem. 

Despite the UN and the international community’s support for this position, Kushner said his plan would not directly adhere to the Arab Initiative. 

According to the Times of Israel, he “vaguely” said that his plan would “fall somewhere between the Arab Peace Initiative and the Israeli position,” refusing to elaborate on what he meant by the “Israeli position.”

 

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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27 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson on June 28, 2019, 1:38 pm

    RE: “The Bahrain conference: what did, and didn’t, happen”

    MY COMMENT: The Bahrain conference reminded me of the “To Serve Man” episode of The Twilight Zone. In fact, the more I think about it, in some ways Jared Kushner resembles the alien Kanamit (although he is not quite as tall and weighs far less).

    “To Serve Man” in 4min

    • JLewisDickerson on June 29, 2019, 12:12 pm

      P.S. Let’s see if “they” manage to have this one blocked as well.

      To Serve Man (Part 2)

    • JLewisDickerson on June 29, 2019, 7:17 pm

      P.P.S.
      To Serve Man (The Twilight Zone)
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Serve_Man_(The_Twilight_Zone)

      [EXCERPT] “To Serve Man” is episode 89 of the anthology series The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series). It originally aired on March 2, 1962 on CBS.[1] The episode was written by Rod Serling and directed by Richard L. Bare.[2]

      The story is based on the 1950 short story “To Serve Man”, written by Damon Knight.[3] The title uses dual meanings of the verb to serve: “to assist” or “to provide as a meal.” The episode is one of the few instances in the series wherein an actor breaks the fourth wall and addresses the viewing audience at the episode’s end. The episode, along with the line “It’s a cookbook!” have become elements in pop culture.[4][5] . . .

  2. LiberatePalestine on June 28, 2019, 2:09 pm

    → Arabs like him were ready to invest.

    Of course Arabs like him want a piece of the imperial action.

    → one would’ve hoped the beneficiaries would’ve been here

    The beneficiaries were there.

  3. wondering jew on June 28, 2019, 9:06 pm

    It seems to me that the situation vis a vis Gaza should be soluble and of course all freedoms come to mind when seeking a solution, but still it seems to me that Gaza is something where there has been Israeli withdrawal of settlers and therefore the potential for a full withdrawal and full independence should be within reach. of course the poverty of Gaza is the next point and thus it should not be imagined that solving Gaza is enough. And of course the situation in Egypt and in the Sinai Peninsula come to mind. Regarding the West Bank is certainly far trickier than Gaza because of the 8 mile wide country near tel aviv, the airport at Lod, the border with Jordan and all the countries one thinks of when one stands near the Jordan River and contemplates the other bank: Jordan, Syria, Iraq and also because of those half million settlers. Far more difficult to agree on the next step.
    I don’t think practical thinking is a bad thing, but this kushner plan vis a vis the west bank seems premature and vis a vis gaza should be the intention, i doubt that a conference like this is the best way to solve gaza, but again gaza should be soluble.

    • annie on June 28, 2019, 9:44 pm

      Gaza is something where there has been Israeli withdrawal of settlers and therefore the potential for a full withdrawal and full independence should be within reach.

      full independence from israel sure, but not palestine. gaza is part of palestine of course, as well as jerusalem.

      it would be difficult to commit to Kushner’s economic proposals so long as his political plans remained a secret.

      why the big secret? what’s the point? does it get batter with age? i doubt it!

      • LiberatePalestine on June 29, 2019, 1:26 am

        → why the big secret? what’s the point? does it get batter with age? i doubt it!

        It’s a feint. Later, when (predictably) nothing has been achieved, the Zionists will claim to have «offered» the Palestinians a state. Of course they will have done nothing of the kind, but much of the public will believe the lie.

      • Philip Munger on June 29, 2019, 11:14 am

        “does it get batter with age? i doubt it!”

        For aging batter to work, it needs some kind of yeast. Kushner’s “sourdough solution”? The only thing that’s going to rise in this recipe is bile.

      • annie on July 1, 2019, 3:50 pm

        better batter better batter better batter

      • Mooser on July 1, 2019, 4:12 pm

        “better batter better batter better batter”

        We need Betty Botter to make the batter better.

      • annie on July 1, 2019, 8:41 pm

        what an amazing tongue twister. did you listen to the audio?

      • Mooser on July 2, 2019, 2:05 pm

        “what an amazing tongue twister”

        Heard it a lot when I was younger. And, for whatever reason, the one about “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”
        700 lbs., approximately, is the estimated answer.

      • oldgeezer on July 2, 2019, 8:50 pm

        700 is so much easier than “a woodchuck would chuck all the wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck would.”

        Probably not right. I haven’t completed, or repeated, the rhyme very recently

      • Mooser on July 3, 2019, 7:32 pm

        “The Associated Press in 1988, reported that a New York fish and wildlife technician named Richard Thomas had calculated the volume of dirt in a typical 25–30-foot (7.6–9.1 m) long woodchuck burrow and had determined that if the woodchuck had moved an equivalent volume of wood, it could move “about 700 pounds (320 kg) on a good day, with the wind at his back.”

        The number was not carelessly arrived at, as you can see. (The Marmota monax is an energetic and industrious little creature, I’m not sure I could chuck 700 lbs. in a day)
        But we’re going a bit OT.

    • eljay on June 28, 2019, 10:24 pm

      || wondering jew: … this kushner plan vis a vis the west bank seems premature and vis a vis gaza should be the intention, i doubt that a conference like this is the best way to solve gaza, but again gaza should be soluble. ||

      Great plan, y.f.:
      – First, you Zionists “solve Gaza” (which presumably involves reducing the # of non-Jews in the rest of geographic Palestine).
      – Then, you officially make the rest of geographic Palestine part of the “Jewish State”.
      – Finally, if anyone complains you act all surprised and maybe even offended but, in a most reasonable-sounding tone, you say something like…

      Let’s be reasonable. Gaza has been solved and the Palestinians have a state. We would never think of taking any part of their state from them – why should the Arabs be allowed to steal ‘Judea and Samaria’ from us and push ‘the Jews’ into the sea?!

      • Mooser on July 1, 2019, 4:14 pm

        “Donald Trump was partly voted into office by Americans who felt that the self-proclaimed greatest power on Earth was actually in decline”

        Yeah, the economic anxiety was palpitatable.

    • Misterioso on July 1, 2019, 8:45 am

      “Israel” has tied its fate to a sinking ship:

      http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176581/tomgram%3A_dilip_hiro%2C_american_decline_/#more

      ”Dilip Hiro, American Decline,” Tomdispatch.com, June 30/19

      “Keep America Great (Don’t Count on It!)”

      “Two Years Later, Trump Has Failed to Reverse America’s Decline” by Dilip Hiro.

      EXCERPT:
      “Donald Trump was partly voted into office by Americans who felt that the self-proclaimed greatest power on Earth was actually in decline — and they weren’t wrong. Trump is capable of tweeting many things, but none of those tweets will stop that process of decline, nor will a trade war with a rising China or fierce oil sanctions on Iran.

      “You could feel this recently, even in the case of the increasingly pressured Iranians. There, with a single pinprick, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei effectively punctured President Trump’s MAGA balloon and reminded many that, however powerful the U.S. still was, people in other countries were beginning to look at America differently at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century.

      “Following a meeting in Tehran with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who brought a message from Trump urging the start of U.S.-Iranian negotiations, Khamenei tweeted, ‘We have no doubt in [Abe’s] goodwill and seriousness; but regarding what you mentioned from [the] U.S. president, I don’t consider Trump as a person deserving to exchange messages with, and I have no answer for him, nor will I respond to him in the future.’ He then added: ‘We believe that our problems will not be solved by negotiating with the U.S., and no free nation would ever accept negotiations under pressure.’

      “A flustered Trump was reduced to briefly tweeting: ‘I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal. They are not ready, and neither are we!’ And soon after, the president halted at the last minute, in a distinctly humiliating retreat, U.S. air strikes on Iranian missile sites that would undoubtedly have created yet more insoluble problems for Washington across the Greater Middle East.

      “Keep in mind that, globally, before the ayatollah’s put-down, the Trump administration had already had two abject foreign policy failures: the collapse of the president’s Hanoi summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (followed by that regime’s provocative firing of several missiles over the Sea of Japan) and a bungled attempt to overthrow the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

      “America’s Global Standing at a Record Low
      “What’s great or small can be defined in absolute or relative terms. America’s ‘greatness’ (or ‘exceptional’ or ‘indispensable’ nature) — much lauded in Washington before the Trump era –should certainly be judged against the economic progress made by China in those same years and against Russia’s advances in the latest high-tech weaponry. Another way of assessing the nature of that ‘greatness’ and what to make of it would be through polls of how foreigners view the United States.

      “Take, for instance, a survey released by the Pew Research Group in February 2019. Forty-five percent of respondents in 26 nations with large populations felt that American power and influence posed ‘a major threat to our country,’ while 36% offered the same response on Russia, and 35% on China. To put that in perspective, in 2013, during the presidency of Barack Obama, only 25% of global respondents held such a negative view of the U.S., while reactions to China remained essentially the same. Or just consider the most powerful country in Europe, Germany. Between 2013 and 2018, Germans who considered American power and influence a greater threat than that of China or Russia leapt from 19% to 49%. (Figures for France were similar.)

      “As for President Trump, only 27% of global respondents had confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs, while 70% feared he would not. In Mexico, you undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn, confidence in his leadership was at a derisory 6%. In 17 of the surveyed countries, people who lacked confidence in him were also significantly more likely to consider the U.S. the world’s top threat, a phenomenon most pronounced among traditional Washington allies like Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.”

    • Misterioso on July 1, 2019, 10:17 am

      @ wonderingjew

      Reality:
      https://www.juancole.com/2019/06/offering-palestinians-neighbors.html

      “Trump & Kushner aren’t Offering Palestinians $50 bn.: They’re Bribing the Neighbors to Bury Them” Middle East Monitor, June 28/19 By Hossam Shaker

      “Donald Trump’s administration has recently shown great interest in Palestinians and their welfare. Even Jared Kushner, the US President’s son-in-law, has tried to spread optimism at the Manama workshop, presenting many ‘opportunities’ for the Palestinian people. Kushner has spoken to the participants as Wall Street speculators, reducing the Palestinian cause to promised returns and expected profit calculations, speaking of Palestinians in their absence.

      “In the workshop it held in the capital of Bahrain, Trump’s administration wanted to stir Palestinian feeling by talking about $50 billion. However, what it presented at the Manama workshop was very misleading slogans and inflated promises.

      “Away from the raised slogans, the Palestinian people will not enjoy this promised cake. A large piece of it will go to the countries in the region, which are supposed to accept this bribe in return for their consent to bury the Palestinian refugees’ right of return and to obey Israeli aspirations to settle them forever abroad.

      “Another piece of the cake will be devoured by private sector investments, though they will employ some Palestinians as workers on their projects, on their own land and give them a low wage. These projects will have direct or indirect gains on the Israeli economy itself.

      “Some of the money allocated to Palestinians will be in the form of loans with accumulating interest, which will complicate the Palestinian people’s dependence and affect the opportunities of future generations. The economic and financial grants to Palestinians will only be paid within 10 years, if they ever are truly fulfilled.

      “With some scrutiny, it is clear that what will be granted to Palestinians is at best less than a quarter of the amount that the Manama workshop boasts about, and that their annual share of its premiums is not far from what is basically allocated to them by international donors at the current time.

      “The Palestinian experience of international commitments is not good and even worse given that these promises were made by Trump’s administration. The international community had previously pledged generous funds, including $4.5 billion to rebuild what the Israeli army destroyed in the Gaza Strip in early 2009. The international community pledged the same after the Israeli campaign of destruction in the summer of 2014. However, Palestinians have continued to endure the suffocating siege and the effects of destruction and economic paralysis in the following five years. Only crumbs have reached them, and their living conditions have deteriorated further.

      “One does not have to be a genius to realise that Donald Trump’s administration is determined to undermine the Palestinian cause and sustain the occupation while maintaining the settlements it has spread over their land. The Palestinians have thus boycotted the Manama workshop and declared their discontent. They have also protested in the streets of Palestine to reject the workshop.

      “Palestinians did not exaggerate when they saw in this meeting an opportunity to market the Trump-Netanyahu project to undermine the Palestinian cause. The Manama workshop has tried to present false temptations to Palestinians under economic headlines, while surpassing the essence of the cause as if it were a mere issue of poverty and hunger.

      “Since early 2018 the Trump administration has exerted pressure on Palestinians to impoverish and starve them. This can be observed through the US administration’s campaign to harass the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, established by the international community to secure the minimum requirements of education, health care and food support for Palestine refugees. Washington decided to renege on its financial obligations to the agency, which caused the Agency’s services to decline sharply and undermined its operational capabilities. The Trump administration also exerted direct financial pressure on the Palestinian Authority, stipulating not to provide scheduled subsistence allowances for thousands of martyrs’ and prisoners’ families who had no breadwinners to provide for them.

      “At the same time, Netanyahu’s government started to deduct money from the revenues of tax and customs due to the Palestinian Authority, which contradicts the arrangements established under the Oslo agreement. On the ground, the occupation’s chronic policies of restricting Palestinian resources, confiscating their land, obstructing their movement in the West Bank, and imposing a prolonged siege on the Gaza Strip are creating heavy burdens and loss. Illegal settlers, however, enjoy privileges and economic and financial supply lines, offered by active organisations in the United States and Europe.

      “All in all, the Trump administration’s move in Manama seems to be an attempt to lure Palestinians through political bribery to give up the cause they have been defending for a century, forcing Gulf capitals to pay the benefits voluntarily or unwillingly. A false and unrealistic price was pushed forward in exchange for the Palestinians’ surrender, an expression used by the Israeli representative to the UN, Danny Danon, in his article published in the New York Times on 24 June, 2019, ahead of the beginning of Manama workshop entitled

      ‘What’s Wrong With Palestinian Surrender?’
      “Palestinians have been offered to surrender to the reality of the occupation and settlements, which has left no chance for the establishment of a Palestinian state even by the Quartet’s standards. Trump’s administration has taken successive steps to further strengthen the presence of the occupation in Jerusalem, the West Bank and even in the Syrian Golan, putting an end to the two-state solution, which in essence was not a just solution to the Palestinian issue. It is also clear that the Trump-Netanyahu coalition is capable of imposing unprecedented dictates, amid the Arab world’s state of weakness and fragmentation and its rulers establishing their tyrannical regimes at any cost, even if they would sacrifice the Palestine cause.

      “’The Middle East problem can be solved economically’ is an extraordinary discovery Kushner made, which previous US administrations failed to discover. This clearly reflects the tendency towards moving beyond the Palestinian cause in favour of further strengthening the occupation’s presence and the surrender of the Palestinian people.

      “It is a difficult moment for the Palestinian people, and it is clear that Trump’s administration is persistent with the threat and use of force against them if they don’t bow along with their Arab regional neighbours to these crude dictates. The mere insistence on holding a conference on the Palestinian people, despite all the Palestinian parties’ boycott, should ring alarm bells against the administration of Trump and its willingness to force the implementation of its project. If Palestinians are not willing to accept the poisoned candy offered, it would be said that it had rejected an unprecedented and generous offer and therefore has to bear the consequences.”

    • oldgeezer on July 2, 2019, 8:52 pm

      @wj

      The trouble with zionists is you probably mean dissolve. History has shown that zionism requires and thrives on violence.

      From the river to the sea
      Gaza will no longer be.

      Very genocidal.

    • oldgeezer on July 4, 2019, 12:24 pm

      @Mooser

      lol…. it might be off topic but that’s actually a fun bit of info (whether it is accurate or not).

      I was so annoyed to notice after my post that I used the wrong would/wood at the end. I could have corrected it in time but other priorities at the time!

      • Mooser on July 4, 2019, 4:16 pm

        ” (whether it is accurate or not).”

        I don’t think Richard Thomas spent his career looking at the back end of a woodchuck while it kicked dirt into his eyes in order to get it wrong!
        Some Euro guy said it was 317.51 Kgs, but that seems too low.

  4. Ronald Johnson on June 28, 2019, 10:02 pm

    Another view of the “To Serve Man” episode – that is not blocked.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW9upuIp1Ek

    We live in unreality. Christine Lagarde’s body language disclosed that she wished that she were somewhere else.

  5. lonely rico on June 29, 2019, 10:43 am

    (Kushner) refusing to elaborate on what he meant by the “Israeli position.”

    Elaboration not needed; everyone knows the Israeli position – maximum land theft, minimum Palestinians.

    The beauty of the plan is that other Arabs will be paying the Palestinians to set up a new Singapore (or is it Monaco?) in their Bantustans in the reconfigured Middle East.
    Faced with Zionist magnanimity, what could go wrong? Unless of course the Palestinians prove once again their visceral antisemitism, wishing only to annihilate the peace-loving Jewish settlers and their children.

  6. ZachWaddill on June 29, 2019, 2:56 pm

    “A woman never forgets”

  7. tamarque on July 1, 2019, 9:29 am

    In a word: Chutzpah in the extreme!

  8. Vera Gottlieb on July 1, 2019, 9:46 am

    Why are we even paying attention to the likes of Jared Kushner. His dubious business affairs should disqualify him immediately of any such proposals. “Kosher” he ain’t…

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