Wednesday, 21 Aug 2019 - 20 of Av, 5779
USA

Ahead of Tuesday conference in Bahrain, White House publishes its economic vision for the Palestinians

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WASHINGTON—The White House has published its economic vision for the Palestinians just ahead of the Washington-led “Peace to Prosperity” conference in Manama, Bahrain, wich opens on Tuesday.

The 40-page plan ‘Peace to Prosperity: A new vision for the Palestinian people and the broader Middle East’ includes three goals – unleash the economic potential of the Palestinians, empower the Palestinians to realise their ambitions, and enhance Palestinian governance.

The plan calls for $50bn of investment in the Palestinian territories over 10 years. Specific projects including border crossing improvements, power plant upgrades, infrastructure improvements to boost tourism, career counselling and job placement services, and re-building and modernising Palestinian hospitals and health clinics. It also proposes a modern transport network to link the West Bank and Gaza, including  a high-speed rail.

The plan doesn’t explain how the money will be raised but does suggest the creation of an international investment fund.

In an interview with Reuters, U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner revealed that $28 billion of the sum would go toward the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, with $7.5 billion earmarked for Jordan, $9 billion for Egypt and $6 billion for Lebanon. Of that, $26 billion would be loans, $13.5 billion grants and $11 billion private investments.

Kushner said: “The whole notion here is that we want people to agree on the plan and then we’ll have a discussion with people to see who is interested in potentially doing what.”

He added: “If you can also get that whole region starting to lift, and if you can get a quicker flow of goods and people in all the different areas that are necessary in industry instead of bullets and munitions and war, then I think that will really lead to a big increase in investment in the area and more jobs and better quality of life and hopefully more peace along with it.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Fatah leaders in Ramallah on Sunday: “There will be no Palestinian presence at the economic workshop in the Bahraini capital of Manama, since there can’t be an economic solution to the Palestinian problem before there is a political solution.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We will listen to the US proposal in a fair and open manner. I can’t understand how the Palestinians rejected the plan before they even heard its contents. This is not the way to make progress.”

Blue and White co-leader MK Yair Lapid said it was a serious document and added: “There is no reason to object to it, particularly because not one word of it mentions the crazy idea of annexation, which would lead to a bi-national state that would destroy the Jewish state. Now a complementing diplomatic element has to arrive as well.”

If Israel and the P.A. agree to the initiative, the new plan would aim to double the P.A.’s GDP, cutting the P.A. poverty rate by 50 percent and reducing the unemployment rate—which is 17.6 percent in Judea and Samaria and 52 percent in Gaza—to single digits.

The Trump administration has said it will tackle the political topics – such as borders- after the September 17 Israeli elections.

Though the P.A. has refused to participate and Israel has not been invited to officially attend, representatives from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar will take part in the conference, as well as members of the International Monetary Fund, and heads of major organizations and corporations such as AT&T.

“This is a very detailed peace vision. You cannot have a successful peace agreement without a successful economic plan. We are worried about the days, weeks, months and years after,” stated U.S. special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt.

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