Jared Kushner unveiled over the weekend the first part of his widely criticized “deal of the century”, drawing ire from Palestinian leaders and sparking protests in cities across Gaza and the West Bank.
The first unveiling of Kushner’s economic blueprint for peace, devoid of any political solutions to the conflict, called for amassing more than $50 billion in foreign investments in the Palestinian economy, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.
The $50 billion is broken down into $39.1 billion in grants and loans and $11.6 billion in private capital, to be invested over the course of 10 years. The plan mentions no commitment on the part of the US, focusing instead on regional investments from surrounding Arab states.
The plan claims that with these investments, it can transform a flailing Palestinian economy through the creation of more than one million jobs.
It also promises to reduce the poverty rate by 50 percent, and bring the unemployment rate — currently at 31 percent in the West Bank and over 50 percent in Gaza — down to single digits.
The proposal also promises investments in infrastructure and tourism in the Palestinian territory, as well as in the neighboring countries of Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon — seemingly an incentive for increased participation of Arab states in the upcoming Bahrain conference.
One of the bolder proposals is a new transit corridor that would pass through Israeli territory to connect the West Bank and Gaza — something the Trump administration would be hard pressed to get right-wing Israeli leaders to agree to.
According to the Washington Post, more than 175 projects were outlined in Kushner’s proposals. The only problem is that almost all the projects, the Post says, would require buy-in from Palestinian leaders, who have been vocal in their boycott of American-led peace negotiations.
As they have done since Trump took office and began touting his peace plan, Palestinian business and political leaders voiced their outright rejection of the proposal’s first unveiling over the weekend.
The main criticism on the part of the Palestinians has, and continues to be, the fact that the proposed “economic peace” cannot be actualized without political justice. The two must go hand in hand.
While there’s no doubt that Palestinians would like to enjoy economic prosperity and, as Kushner put it, “pay their mortgages,” those things come second to the desire for statehood and freedom from Israel’s decades long occupation.
Senior PLO official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said Kushner’s proposal contains “abstract promises” that could not be achieved without a political solution to the conflict, telling Reuters “there can be no prosperity under occupation.”
“If they really care about the Palestinian economy they should start by lifting the siege of Gaza, stopping Israel stealing our money and our resources and our land and opening up our territorial waters, our air space and our borders so we can freely export and import,” Ahsrawi said.
Ahead of a Ramallah cabinet meeting on Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told journalists “this workshop is simply a political laundry for settlements and a legitimization of occupation.”
“We reject the ‘deal of the century’ and all its dimensions, the economic, the political and security dimensions,” Hamas official Ismail Rudwan told Reuters.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told the agency that Palestinians “will not sell out their rights for all treasures on earth.”
Protests erupted in Gaza and the West Bank city of Ramallah, Reuters reported. Protesters in Gaza chanted “Down with Bahrain, down with Trump, down with the Manama conference,” while others burned photos of Trump. In Ramallah, protesters burned posters of both Trump and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
The “Peace to Prosperity” conference in Manama, Bahrain, will take place from June 25-26, with participation from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Egypt, and European and American officials.
Noticeably missing from the table will be Palestinian political leaders, along with several prominent Palestinian businessmen who declined their invitations to the conference. Israel is expected to send a business delegation.
The lack of Palestinian participation and Israel’s decision to essentially watch from the sidelines do not bode well for Kushner and the Trump administration, who have already faced deep international skepticism surrounding their plans.
PA Social Development Minister Ahmed Majdalani has said that “any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel.”