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Palestinians double down on Bahrain conference boycott after Trump admin unveils ‘economic blueprint for peace’

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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.”

Palestinians hold placards during a protest against the economic workshop in Bahrain, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 24, 2019.

Palestinians hold placards during a protest against the economic workshop in Bahrain, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 24, 2019. (Photo: Ayat Arqawy/APA Images)

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.”

Yumna Patel

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

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6 Responses

  1. Kay24 on June 24, 2019, 9:45 pm

    Aw, it looks like Netanyahu has disappointed those who gave him Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and supported his candidacy. I cannot imagine Kushner and Trump being in the dark that Israel is not engaged in this great plan for peace. Unless of course it is all part of the grand plan, which the world will be told the Palestinians are not interested in peace, and justify Israel’s annexations of the West Bank, and whatever their greedy hearts desire.

  2. Citizen on June 25, 2019, 7:52 am

    RE WaPo’s “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.”

    Another problem is that almost all those projects also come with Jewish Israeli business folk attached.

    • Richard Baldwin Cook on June 25, 2019, 5:03 pm

      $50 billion of other people’s money – the asking price according to Jared’s homework paper, for people to shut up about political rights; Plan B must be to wave that in front of the Israelis. What? No takers? So ungrateful . . . such a missed opportunity . . .

  3. Misterioso on June 25, 2019, 9:38 am

    For the record:

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/06/24/trump-peace-plan-middle-east-227209

    “Trump’s Peace Plan Is Immoral, Impractical—and Could Blow Up the Middle East”

    By AMI AYALON, GILEAD SHER and ORNI PETRUSCHKA, June 24, 2019, Politico Magazine.

    “Ami Ayalon is former director of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet.

    “Gilead Sher, former chief of staff for Prime Minister Ehud Barak and senior Israeli peace negotiator, heads Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies’ Center for Applied Negotiations.

    “Orni Petruschka is a high-tech entrepreneur in Israel. They are co-founders of the Israeli NGO Blue White Future and principals of Molad, an Israeli think tank.
    EXCERPT:

    “It sounds great on paper: The U.S. administration will hold a ‘peace to prosperity’ economic workshop in Bahrain on June 25 and 26 to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Yet scratch the shiny PR surface and you’ll find a dangerously simplistic approach to a complicated situation. Anybody who followed the last 30 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict understands that President Donald Trump’s announcement of this first step on the way to a deal is all form and no substance: a new name for the same failed idea known as ‘economic peace,’ and before that as ‘a new Middle East.’

    “Putting economics first, before a political process, is more than a tactical error, yet another in a long line of failed attempts to advance towards a permanent two-state solution. The Trump administration’s focus on economics—led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner—is a strategic mistake that could stymie the negotiations before they begin. If Trump and his team studied history, they would know that placing economics before core political issues is a slap in the face to the Palestinians. Of course, the Palestinians want to improve their quality of life; of course they want to build a growing economy. But these are secondary goals, to be pursued after self-determination is achieved. If the Palestinians could be ‘bought’ with economic benefits, we would be long past the need for talks. Trump’s approach is not only immoral, it is impractical.

    “The truth is that economics were never enough to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Paris Agreement, which followed the Oslo Accords—a set of agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed in the 1990s that were never implemented to the letter—focused on economics, and it did not salvage the deterioration of the security situation that resulted in the second intifada, a bloody 4-year Palestinian revolt against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Neither the first nor the second intifadas broke out for economic reasons (the Palestinian economy was not faring badly, relatively speaking). They erupted because the way forward was unclear, and because the Palestinians felt that the economic benefits offered would not lead to the end of the occupation. High hopes for trust-building had been dashed against the absence of a political plan to end the conflict. This void nurtured despair and disappointment, leading to angry uprisings that cost many lives on both sides.

    “That is the very real danger we are facing again. By putting economics first while ignoring the end game, Trump is repeating a colossal mistake: resuming talks without defining the end goal. For both Palestinians and Israelis, that goal should be ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel within 1967 borders, with necessary land swaps. Unless both parties and the mediating power state this clearly at the outset, the expectations gap will breed mistrust. Thus, sitting down together will be futile. This will lead to further disillusionment—and escalating violence. Unless the goal of the talks is explicitly defined as ending the conflict and establishing a Palestinian state, more lives will be lost.”

    • yoseeq on June 25, 2019, 11:58 am

      could you please give me the gist of the above article in simple english please?

  4. genesto on June 25, 2019, 12:24 pm

    The incompetent President assigns his even more incompetent son-in-law the task of securing an Israeli/Palestinian peace agreement. It fails miserably. What a surprise!!

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