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22 Jun, 2019 19:40

Palestine’s ‘opportunity’ or ‘entirely wrong’? Rocky reception for dawn of $50-bn Trump Mideast plan

Palestine’s ‘opportunity’ or ‘entirely wrong’? Rocky reception for dawn of $50-bn Trump Mideast plan

A $50 billion plan for Palestine’s economy that hinges on peace with Israel has been revealed by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. He calls it the “opportunity of the century” but a chorus of Palestinian groups disagrees.

Speaking to Reuters on Saturday, Kushner dangled the multibillion proposal separately from the central –political– part of US President Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace deal plan. He said he did so on purpose to let people “digest” the “less controversial” side of the plan before the political details finally land.

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The interview, as well as the document shared by the White House, draw an optimistic picture of a million jobs created in the West Bank and Gaza and Palestine’s GDP “doubled” in 10 years with the help of the specially created, multinationally-controlled fund. Donors would pour some $28 billion into the West Bank and Gaza, while further investment would go to Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, where several million Palestinian refugees live.

The Gulf monarchies are being eyed as the biggest donors for the plan, while specifics include dozens of development projects, such as one to connect Gaza with the West Bank, and some proposals as ambitious as turning Palestinian land into “a successful global tourism destination.”

The catch is, of course, that without Palestinians agreeing to Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled political plan, often referred to in the media as the “deal of the century,” there is no flow of US-led investments into Palestine. Preferring the catchphrase “peace to prosperity,” Kushner still played on the widely-mocked label, telling Palestinian officials that “this is going to be the ‘Opportunity of the Century’ if they have the courage to pursue it.”

Palestinian groups were quick to respond to the “challenge” by outright rejecting the very premise of Kushner’s proposal. Widely expected to be biased to favour Israel, based on Trump’s policy choices alone, there are no great hopes that it will address the Israeli occupation in a way acceptable to Palestinians. Worse still, many have chosen to boycott the proposal in advance.

“The plan cannot pass because it ends the Palestinian cause,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah on Saturday, adding that “there can be no economic solution before there’s a political solution.”

Branding the plan a “humiliating blackmail,” he also called for mass Palestinian demonstrations to be held against it.

“Palestine isn’t for sale, and it is not an issue for bargaining. Palestine is a sacred land and there is no option for the [Israeli] occupation except to leave,” was the response of Hamas, which is in control of Gaza. Hamas has said that it will reject Trump’s upcoming deal in its entirety.

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The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) called the US plan “abstract promises,” with only the political part making the difference. Senior PLO official and veteran Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters that Kushner and the Trump administration in general have taken an “entirely wrong approach.”

“They can end the occupation, which is the most basic requirement for prosperity. There can be no prosperity under occupation,” Ashrawi said.

The Palestinians need their freedom to prosper, not the Gulf money, Saad Nimr, professor of political science at Birzeit University in the West Bank, told RT.

There’s not much new about Kushner’s plan, Nimr pointed out, as “during Shimon Peres as a Prime Minister in Israel (1995-96), he tried that approach of talking economic ease to the Palestinians instead of talking about a political solution,” but without success.

Palestine would earn $5.5 billion extra every year if it had access to the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, which is now blocked by Israel, Nimr pointed out, citing a World Bank report.

The whole issue is a political issue. Give us our freedom and we are able to live equally, normally and in prosperity in Palestine.

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Kushner will present the ambitious economic plan at a US-led conference in Bahrain on June 25 and 26. The White House senior adviser will be flying to Manama in order to get feedback from finance ministers and investors from countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

The Saudis said their participation was in line with their “permanent and supportive stance to the Palestinian people and what would help it achieve stability, development and good living.” Jordan’s King Abdullah II explained his country’s attendance is based on the need to “listen and remain knowledgeable of what is taking place.”

However, the so-called “workshop” will proceed without Palestinian representatives, who refused to participate in it or accept its results. They said that to discuss economy ahead of a political solution was “offering a carrot before the stick” on the part of the Americans.

With the Palestinians absent, Washington ruled against inviting the Israeli government to Manama, with the event to be attended only by a small delegation of businessmen from Israel.

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