DEAL OF THE CENTURY: White House Unveils $50 Billion Palestinian Economic Plan

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with President Donald Trump and Jared Kushner on May 22 in Jerusalem (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The Trump administration on Saturday unveiled a $50 billion Palestinian investment and infrastructure proposal intended to be the economic engine to power its much-anticipated but still unreleased “deal of the century” Middle East peace plan.

The scheme, which calls for a mix of public and private financing and intends to create at least a million new jobs for Palestinians, was posted to the White House website ahead of a two-day conference in Bahrain that is being held amid heavy skepticism about its viability and outright opposition from the Palestinians. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday reiterated his rejection of the proposal and the conference.

The “Peace to Prosperity” workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday will also take place amid heightened regional tensions over Iran that threaten to overshadow its goals.

With no official participation from the two main protagonists, Israel and the Palestinians, and scant enthusiasm from others, continued uncertainty and strong doubts over the plan’s political vision and the distraction of potential U.S.-Iran conflict, expectations are decidedly low. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner faces high hurdles in building support for the initiative.

The 10-year plan calls for projects worth $27.5 billion in the West Bank and Gaza, and $9.1 billion, $7.4 billion and $6.3 billion for Palestinians in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, respectively. Projects envisioned include those in the health care, education, power, water, high-tech, tourism, and agriculture sectors. It calls for the creation of a “master fund” to administer the finances and implementation of the projects that is says are akin to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

The plan foresees more than doubling the Palestinian gross domestic product, reducing the Palestinian poverty rate by 50 percent and cutting the sky-high Palestinian unemployment rate to nearly single digits, according to the documents, which do not specify exactly how the projects will be funded.

It also calls for linking the West Bank and Gaza with a modern transportation network, including high-speed rail service. Such ideas have been floated in the past in previous peace proposals but have run into Israeli security concerns.

“Generations of Palestinians have lived under adversity and loss, but the next chapter can be defined by freedom and dignity,” the White House said, calling the plan “the most ambitious international effort for the Palestinian people to date.”

But an already tough sell that has vexed U.S. administrations for decades is made tougher not least because Trump and his aides have refused to endorse a two-state solution to the conflict that has long been seen as the only viable path to lasting peace. They have also suggested they are open to unilateral Israeli annexation of occupied territory in the West Bank. And, officials say there is no intention of discussing either issue or the most contentious parts of their proposal to end the long-running conflict.

Thus, the core political issues that are key to resolving the dispute, such as borders, the status of the holy city of Jerusalem, Israel’s security and the fate of Palestinian refugees, will not be raised. Such matters, U.S. officials have said, may have to wait until the fall, after Israeli elections, leaving numerous questions that potential investors almost certainly want answers to before making even tentative financial commitments.

Palestinian leaders, angered by what they and their supporters see as blatant U.S. bias toward Israel, want nothing to do with the workshop and will not participate. The Palestinians have called for mass demonstrations against the conference on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The plan cannot pass because it ends the Palestinian cause,” Abbas said on Saturday. “We are not going to attend this workshop, the reason is that the economic situation should not be discussed before a political situation, so long as there is no political situation, we do not deal with any economic situation.”

An economic adviser to Abbas said projects envisaged in the U.S. proposal could be considered, but only after the political question is agreed upon. “Yes, we need to build the infrastructure, the investment, the tourism sector … but that cannot come before ending the Israeli occupation,” Mohammed Mustafa, head of Palestinian Investment Fund, told The Associated Press.

In Gaza, the rival Hamas militant group has also condemned the conference. “In one voice, we say no to the Manama workshop and the deal of the century,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said. He appealed to Bahrain’s king to “take a brave, strong, authentic Arab decision not to host this workshop” and called on Arab countries to cancel their planned participation.

Complicating the Bahrain meeting is the fact that it coincides with a pledging conference in New York for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, a 70-year-old institution that the Trump administration has defunded and wants to eliminate entirely. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, already provides health, education and other services to millions of Palestinians.

Its supporters suspect the administration purposely scheduled the Bahrain conference to conflict with its event, noting that Kushner’s peace plan partner Jason Greenblatt has publicly called for UNRWA’s dissolution. Greenblatt argued last month that the agency perpetuates Palestinian victimhood, abets anti-Israel sentiment and is an inefficient drain on funds that could be better directed.

Kushner’s plan includes large sums of money for Jordan and Lebanon, countries with large Palestinian refugee populations, in an apparent attempt to have them absorbed into these nations.

Regardless of American intent, the dueling meetings are likely to leave donors, particularly European nations, in an awkward position: torn between supporting an established international organization or a mystery concept being put together by a U.S. administration that has in two years reversed a half-century of American Middle East policy.

Since Trump took office, he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv, downgraded the consulate devoted to Palestinian issues, shut down the Palestinian office in Washington and slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.

Such steps have made Kushner’s prospects for success in Bahrain even slimmer, according to experts.

“This is trying to dangle some benefits to the Palestinians to accept terms they already rejected,” said Shibley Telhami, a Mideast scholar and the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland. “A lure to get the Palestinians to accept the unacceptable is not going to work. It’s impossible.”

Although Washington’s Gulf Arab allies are supportive of the plan, Israel’s immediate neighbors have been more reluctant to embrace it.

Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab countries with peace deals with Israel, are sending mid-ranking officials from their finance ministries and not Cabinet ministers to Bahrain.

Jordanian foreign ministry spokesman Sufian al-Qudah reiterated Amman’s position that a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders and a capital in east Jerusalem, “is the only way to resolve the conflict and achieve security, stability and comprehensive peace in the region.”

Egypt supports the same conditions, the state-run news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez as saying.

(AP)




20 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t give them a cent!
    If they stop fire-bombing us and sending missiles, if they stop building tunnels to attack us and to smuggle armaments and bombs then they will be okay.

  2. How much would the world have to offer the Israelis to give up their country. Are the Palestinians likely to be any different? The one thing that is clear, is the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about money.

  3. “Generations of Palestinians have lived under adversity and loss, but the next chapter can be defined by freedom and dignity,” OH, AND their (the Palestinians) persistent aggression and baseless hatred!

  4. Advice
    to president Yasser Abbas.
    Please oh president Abbas reject Billions dollars of prosperity measures for your people like Arafat rejected every proposal and sided with Sadam Husain and Kaddafi.
    Please oh President Mahmoud side with the terror specially when Iran is doomed to fail with our president. Please keep donkies main mod of transportation and regress back to dark ages because it’s a good for you and your gang of Mafia.
    Yes pay for Murder.
    Pay so that no one be educated because you are an Arab.
    Stupid, dum and almost always pick the wrong side.
    Marhava !!! Shukran.

  5. With people like David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt involved, Im all for any Trump plan regarding peace. They are both advising Trump, and are both brilliant. But this has zero chance of continuity if Trump doesnt get reelected, because no Democratic candidates care as much about Israel’s safety as Trump does.

  6. Give them 27 billion to leave to Jordan or Saudi Arabia. Otherwise this money will go back to terror or kleptocrats luxurious castles.

  7. Trump will start finding all sorts of problems on a personal level and political level now that he has started the process of some Revised Oslo Fake Peace Plan that will lead if enacted to Jews getting killed and losing parts of the land of Israel.
    Even the possibility of a New Fake Oslo Peace Plan causes the government of Israel to act too soft on Islamic/Arab enemies and too hard on right wing settlers.
    Trump should realize, it was primarily for the sake of Eretz Yisrael, that he gained office and act accordingly.

  8. > akuperma

    When did Palestinians ever have a country of their own? The one thing that is clear is that the Palestinians don’t want a country of their own. What they want is to take away everything from the Jews, including the Jewish country and nation. If they wanted a country of their own they would have jumped at the UN partition offer of 1947/1948, and even after that, they would have created their own country before modern Israel liberated Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in 1967.

    And if this is not about money, then why are they always complaining that the UN and everyone else has to keep giving them more money.

  9. And the anti Semites complain about Israel getting 3 billion a year. Wow, the degenerate lying adulterer is such a great friend of Israel! You trump supporters were thrown a couple of crumbs, now look.

  10. Money can’t solve the problem. The 1948 partition gave them Jordan. After 3 generations not working, but living off UN handouts and teaching children to hate the Jews, I don’t see how money will help.
    Is Trump going to see that the Jews who had to flee their homes in Arab countries get paid for the property they left behind?

  11. The headline baffled me (but it is the AP). But then I read the article, and I am okay with it. They refuse to accept it. So there’s no point in debating the merits. Their unconstitutional leader has made a quote that should be echoed for years and consistently brought up everytime the topic arises.
    ‘“The plan cannot pass because it ends the Palestinian cause,” Abbas said on Saturday.’ They refuse to accept a cent, a state, an economy, or dignity, because it ends the cause of genocide and terrorism around the globe. End of story.

  12. Next time you post trash articles from leftist sources, please let me know at the beginning of the article. I couldn’t believe a frum Yid could write such garbage. B”H it’s just the AP.

  13. georgeg : In response to “When did Palestinians ever have a country of their own?”

    Prior to 1914, going back to the defeat of the Crusaders, the Muslims in Eretz Yisrael were ruled by Muslims. Until introduced to the idea of racism and nationalism, no one really cared about ethnicity. It was religion that mattered. They had their Caliph, the courts of the land were Islamic, they were in a country they identified with. As long as Trump, or the Zionists, offers the Palestinians a country in which Muslims are sovereign and non-Muslims are a tolerated minority, they will accept it. The steady emigration of Christans from the Middle East shows how much they like the idea of Islamic rule, and the only Jews who would accept it are some Hareidim who are more interested in communal autonomy based on halchic norms even at the expense of civil rights.

  14. akumperma, that is not true. The Arab Muslims of the area participated in The Great War because they all did not believe that a Muslim was a Muslim, they did not want the oppressive Turks and it was the Arabs in Mecca who were the true rulers in their mind. Just as the struggle today between Arabia and Iran (and against literally everyone else in the region). We can go on for pages and books and centuries. And in case you are talking using semantics when you mention no one caring about ethnicity, fine. They cared (and still do) about tribes and clans.
    Otherwise, what you are telling me, is that everyone around is a-ok with Erdogans visions of grandeur and getting HIS land back!