USA peace plan aims to raise $50 bn, double Palestinian GDP

Cars sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Ramallah Road

Cars sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Ramallah Road

President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to unveil his "peace to prosperity" plan at an worldwide conference in Bahrain next week. The approach toward reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process was criticized by the Palestinians on Saturday. Though Reuters points out that the tenuous security situation in the West Bank might mean that part of the plan is impractical - at least, that is, until a political solution is reached.

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 almost single digits, according to the documents, which do not specify exactly how the projects will be funded. Some of the projects would be in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, where investments could benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza, a crowded and impoverished coastal enclave.

Tourism - Nearly a billion dollars are allocated for Palestine's tourism industry specifically.

Jason Greenblatt, a senior aide to Trump who crafted the peace plan alongside Kushner, said that the political component may come as late as November.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has reiterated his staunch rejection of a USA economic peace plan, saying a political solution must come first.

Special Advisor to the US President Jared Kushner.

"This is going to be the "Opportunity of the Century" if they have the courage to pursue it", Kushner told the Reuters news agency. "Palestine is a sacred land and there is no option for the occupation except to leave".

The White House cast the plan - to be discussed in more detail in Bahrain with finance chiefs of oil-rich Gulf Arab states - as historic. Their presence, some United States officials say privately, appears intended in part to curry favor with Trump as he takes a hard line against Iran, those countries' regional arch-foe.

The White House said on June 12 that Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have agreed to attend the workshop.

U.S. officials have hinted that the eventual peace plan will not mention the creation of an independent Palestinian state, a goal of decades of often intense USA diplomacy.

But it remains unclear who will pay the bill for the Peace to Prosperity plan and whether Gulf Arabs - who have increasingly found common cause with Israel due to their mutual hostility toward Iran - will be willing to contribute even before a political settlement.

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But the Palestinian Authority is boycotting the so-called Peace to Prosperity workshop and a senior official swiftly rejected the plan, charging that the unabashedly pro-Israel Trump is seeking to buy off the Palestinians and deprive them of an independent state. Palestine isn't for sale, and it is not an issue for bargaining.

The economic part of the plan was presented by Kushner during an exclusive interview with Reuters Television.

The "economy first" approach is meant to show the Palestinian people that a prosperous future is possible if they work out a peace plan with Israel.

White House officials have played down expectations for Manama, which will put Mr Kushner just across the Gulf from Iran at a time of surging tensions between Tehran and Washington. He stressed that governments would not be expected to make financial pledges on the spot.

"It is a small victory that they are all showing up to listen and partake", he said. "In the old days, the Palestinian leaders would have spoken and nobody would have disobeyed", he said.

It also includes the construction of a $7.2 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza, according to USA officials and documents reviewed by Reuters.

The narrowest distance between the territories, whose populations have always been divided by Israeli travel restrictions, is about 40 km (25 miles).

The economic plan, without any direct mention of Hamas, nonetheless said it also aimed to assist the Gaza Strip.

In a step likely to outrage Palestinian leaders, it said that money would be administered by a multinational development bank as a way to ensure better governance and prevent corruption. "And as long as there is no political (solution), we do not deal with any economic issues", he added. Our cause is a political one and should be dealt with as such.

"The entire world wants to help the Palestinians except for the Palestinians themselves".

However Ms Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian negotiator and member of the executive committee of the PLO, said only a political solution that ended Israel's occupation of the Palestinian Territories would solve the conflict.

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