The US president’s senior advisor Jared Kushner unveils new economic plan for the Middle East that talks of Palestinians but not the Palestinian Authority or the occupied territories.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner was addressing a conference in Manama, Bahrain on Tuesday, going over the United States’ peace plan in the Middle East.
Kushner revealed his “Peace to Prosperity” economic plan for Israel and Palestine.
“My direct message to the Palestinian people is that despite what those who have let you down in the past tell you, President Trump and America have not given up on you,” he told the crowd.
Except the crowd did not have any representatives from the Palestinian Authority.
In fact, it did not even have representatives from Israel.
The Palestinian Authority was boycotting the conference because the US had moved its embassy to Jerusalem and had cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees.
And the US apparently had not invited the Israeli administration in the absence of the Palestinian Authority.
The Peace to Prosperity plan, revealed on Tuesday, is significant not because it offers a way to build peace between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, but because of its lack of political content.
It is an economic plan that aims to “transform and improve the lives of the Palestinians and the people of the region by unleashing economic growth, unlocking human potential, and enhancing Palestinian governance following a peace agreement.”
The peace agreement is not spelt out, nor is any mention made of a two-state solution. Yet Kushner, echoing Trump, has called it “the opportunity of the century, if leadership has the courage to pursue it.''
The plan boasts that “with the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over ten years,” it represents “the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinians to date.”
Both Trump and Kushner have close ties with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the new plan seems to be aimed at pressuring the Palestinian Authority into accepting economic improvement as a means to caving in to Israel’s demands.
“The basic policy is to increase the suffering of Palestinian people to a point where they surrender or give up the idea of resistance for a national struggle and then, reward that acceptance by improving the economic conditions for keeping them as second-class political participants in Israel, requiring renunciation of any Palestinian claim to self-determination,” Richard Falk, an American-Jewish expert on the Palestinian conflict told TRT World earlier.
Relying on independent businesses to predominantly implement projects, the plan, according to the White House, aims “to utilise an implementation mechanism analogous to that of the Marshall plan—with a core focus on creating a thriving business sector and ending reliance on donor aid”.
Kushner has had to confess on Tuesday that “Today is not about political issues. The goal of this workshop is to begin thinking about these challenges in a new way.”
He presented his dream vision: “Imagine a new reality in the Middle East ... Imagine a bustling tourist center in Gaza and the West Bank. Imagine people and goods flowing securely throughout the region as people become more prosperous. This is not a stretch, it is the historic legacy of the Middle East."
The plan aims for four major pillars of achievement within ten years:
- More than double Palestinian gross domestic product
- Create over one million Palestinian jobs
- Reduce the Palestinian unemployment rate to nearly single digits
- Reduce the Palestinian poverty rate by 50 percent
The plan hopes to open the West Bank and Gaza. The document says “building new connections between Palestinians and the region will increase trade, reduce costs, and facilitate regional cooperation,” but it does not say, for example, how it will convince the Israeli government to relax its tight hold on security checkpoints it controls.
As far as infrastructure goes, the plan aims to “ensure continual availability of affordable electricity in the West Bank and Gaza, double the potable water supply per capita available to the Palestinians, and enable Palestinian high-speed data services”.
The plan relies on Egypt for power and Israel for water but does not confirm whether the two nations will offer these services readily to Palestinians. Egypt has its own energy issues, according to the Oxford Business Group, which notes that “Egypt needs to increase its generating capacity by 5.5 GW a year through 2022 to make up for the shortfall, or roughly $5bn a year in investment.”
Also worth noting is that the phrase “Palestinian Authority” is absent from the plan throughout the document, which points to the US government treating the population as a people (“Palestinians”), but not as a nation.