White House to invest more in Middle East as part of peace proposal

The effort is being headed by Jared Kushner who sees it as 'exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward'

Photo: EPA White House adviser and Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner

The White House announced Sunday afternoon the first part of its Middle East peace proposal, what officials are calling an economic "workshop" aimed at encouraging capital investments in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region, CNN reported, citing a senior administration official.

According to media's source, the effort is being headed by Jared Kushner, the senior White House adviser and President's son-in-law, and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who have spent years developing the proposal along with the much stickier political component, which officials said would be announced later in the year. Kushner is calling the event a "workshop" rather than a summit, the first official said, because he is relying on feedback to the proposal from the many speakers and other participants invited, including from the Palestinian territories.

What is clear for now is that the workshop, as it is called by Kushner, will take place in Manama, Bahrain, on 25 June and 26, bringing together finance ministers with global and regional business leaders. It will attempt to studiously avoid the many political issues that have made peace so elusive for so long: issues such as whether the Palestinians will get their own state, the status of Jerusalem, measures Israel takes in the name of security, and what should happen with Palestinians and their descendants who fled or were expelled from Israel around the time of the state's creation in 1948.

Instead, officials will discuss four major components - infrastructure, industry, empowering and investing in people, and governance reforms "to make the area as investible as possible." The plan will also include a "combination of grant money, low interest loans and then also private capital." 

"We recognide that this needs to go hand in hand with the political plan, but this will be the first chance to roll out details of the economic plan," the official told CNN, adding that this will be an opportunity to show Palestinians, Jordanians, Israelis and the Lebanese that "CEOs care about them and want to be investing in the area."
"We think this will showcase the potential of the entire region," the official continued. "Think about how much money is spent on bullets right now. If it could be spent on infrastructure and human capital, think about how much better the region could be."

Palestinian and other Arab leaders, however, are reportedly skeptic about Kushner's plan, given how staunchly the Trump administration has supported Israel and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and recognising Israel's claim to the Golan Heights, while suspending funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

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