Kushner unveils economic portion of Middle East peace plan

The plan envisions a global investment fund to support the Palestinian and other Arab state economies

Photo: EPA Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and White House senior adviser

The White House presented on Saturday a $50bn Middle East economic plan that would create a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies, and fund a $5bn transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza. The “peace to prosperity” plan, set to be fully unveiled by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an international conference in Bahrain next week, includes in particular 179 infrastructure and business projects, Reuters reports.

Under the plan more than half of the $50bn would be spent in the economically troubled Palestinian territories over 10 years while the rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. 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. The plan also proposes nearly a billion dollars to build up the Palestinians’ tourism sector, a seemingly impractical notion for now given the frequent flareups between Israeli forces and militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza, and the tenuous security in the occupied West Bank.

The approach toward reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, however was met with contempt, repudiation and exasperation in the Arab world, even as some in the Gulf called for it to be given a chance. Mainly because Kushner's ambitious economic revival plan is to take place only if a political solution to the region’s long-running problems is reached, which at the moment seems unlikely. In addition, the Trump administration hopes that wealthy Gulf states and nations in Europe and Asia, along with private investors, would foot much of the bill, Kushner told Reuters.

As a result, from Sudan to Kuwait, prominent commentators and ordinary citizens denounced Kushner’s proposals in strikingly similar terms: “colossal waste of time,” “non-starter,” “dead on arrival.” Arab analysts also believe the economic plan is an attempt to buy off opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land with a multi-billion dollar bribe to pay off the neighboring hosts of millions of Palestinian refugees to integrate them.

“It is disingenuous to say that this plan is purely economic because it has a political dimension that has implications that are incongruous with the political aspirations,” Safwan Masri, a Columbia University professor, told Reuters.

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