Kushner’s Middle East Plan Wins Its First Round Ahmed Charai The National Interest, June 29, 2019
President Donald Trump’s senior advisor, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner has been working in secret with Middle East leaders for more than a year. This week, in Bahrain, he unveiled his plan, while I was in the room. With high-security arrangements, and without official Israeli and Palestinian representatives, the “Peace To Prosperity Workshop” was held on Tuesday in Manama. It was Kushner’s attempt to secure buy-in from Arab leaders with a plan to supply $50 billion in development aid to the Palestinians—the largest amount ever proposed by the U.S. government. Surprisingly, it worked.
For decades, policymakers have focused on a largely political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; where to draw lines, who controls what land and so on. This approach brought us the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, where Palestinians were granted more than 90 percent of the land and water that they said they wanted, along with a security guarantee. Yasser Arafat ultimately rejected the plan; riots and demonstrations rocked the rest of the decade.
Kushner’s approach is fresh and unique. He starts from the premise that the Palestinians want peace, but, especially, the younger majority wants the hope for a better life: modern housing, safe and effective schools, rewarding jobs, peace, order, and prosperity.
At the conference, former British prime minister Tony Blair essentially backed Kushner’s plan: a political agreement without an economic vision, and an international commitment to help Palestinians to improve their lives, will flounder and fail. While he stressed that he remains committed to a two-state solution, Blair said that it will only happen “when the economics and politics are right.”
Kushner’s great insight is that economic development should come first and shape the discussion for a political solution. His second insight is that a single “grand bargain” is not realistic; that an evolutionary and gradual approach that builds trust along with economic milestones is more likely to succeed. Along with economic development, the Palestinians need effective government. This means trash collection and policing safe hospitals and roads. It means transparency into government accounting and processes as well as accountability to Palestinian voters. Over time, this will bring forth a new generation of men and women, who are professional politicians and able bureaucrats, who can discuss complex issues with the Israelis and negotiate a viable political solution. In turn, the Israeli government needs to find the courage to compromise. That means political leaders who will take risks, making decisions that may be unpopular but necessary for peace.
While Palestinian and Israeli officials were not there, representatives of their civil societies were. More than a dozen prominent Israelis businessman participated. Some fifteen Palestinians attended, including Ashraf Jabari, an influential leader from Hebron. He was the only Palestinian scheduled to speak. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.] ______________________________________________________
The Bahrain Conference: What the Experts and the Media Missed Jeffrey Sonnenfeld Fortune, June 30, 2019
Amid the constant recycling of commentary about the recent Democratic Party candidate debates, you might have thought the world was riveted only by this intra-family food fight. If you didn’t read or hear anything about last week’s Bahrain economic summit, you are not alone.
But while U.S. media largely ignored this event, the global media saw something remarkable and historic unfold. The summit, organized by the U.S. government and hosted by Bahrain’s crown prince, showcased different voices with new ideas and the economic resources to bring to life dreams of progress in Palestine. Over 300 top delegates came from 30 countries, from Australia and Argentina; Dubai and Delhi; Nigeria and Norway; and even such unlikely pairings as Saudi Arabia and Qatar or Greece and Turkey. The explicit purpose was to reverse the sequence of the past 50 years of peace efforts (e.g. Oslo, Paris, Annapolis) – that is, to share an economic vision before delving into divisive political real estate battles. (I served as a volunteer moderator at one panel during the summit.)
White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner unveiled a $50 billion economic plan, one whose implementation would be predicated on a future political peace agreement. His plan gives the opposing parties a chance to visualize what the quality of life could be like when tensions subside. Drawing on the remarkable economic-development successes in other countries that have been torn by past political violence, including Bangladesh and South Korea, the proposal details highly specific uses of grants, low-interest loans, and private investment intended to double the size of the Palestinian economy, create one million new jobs, reduce Palestinian unemployment from 30% to single digits, and reduce Palestinian poverty by 50%.
Roughly 190 specific projects in the Bahrain plan would aim to increase export revenue from 17% to 40% of the Palestinian GDP; ensure reliable electricity; double the drinkable water supply; connect more schools to high-speed data services; increase women’s participation in the workforce; and generate a 500% increase in foreign direct investment. The plan would boost investment in key industries such as tourism, agriculture, digital services, housing, and manufacturing; it would also provide for infrastructure enhancements such as a $5 billion high-speed highway connecting Gaza to the West Bank. While many of these projects echo goals of earlier development plans from the World Bank and other organizations, this is the first plan that aims to comprehensively integrate these efforts—and to adequately fund them.
U.S. business leaders, including Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, were present to give these plans their endorsement. They and dozens of other executives cited the proposals as attractive investment opportunities, with very reasonable financial targets, in an environment where the rule of law could help them thrive.
A hush fell over the Four Seasons banquet hall in Manama during Wednesday’s closing panel, led by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Top officials, diplomats and business leaders, including the host, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, watched approvingly as foreign affairs and finance ministers from the Gulf Coast countries joined Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa on stage. The minister proclaimed: “Israel is a country in the region and it is there to stay, of course. As much as Camp David was a major game-changer…if this succeeds, and we build on it, and it attracts attention and momentum, this would be the second game-changer.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.] ______________________________________________________
Five Takeaways From Trump’s ‘Peace To Prosperity’ Palestinian Plan Seth J. Frentzman Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2019
The long-awaited rollout of the Trump administration’s new approach to the Palestinians began this week with the release of the “Peace to Prosperity” economic plan. The White House website called the document “a new vision for the Palestinian people and broader Middle East.”
US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt said the plan has the “potential to achieve incredible results” with more than $50 billion in investment over 10 years, which would double the GDP of the Palestinian areas and create one million jobs.
The plan itself is laid out in a 38-page document that can be downloaded online. A US delegation is currently discussing it in Bahrain with countries from the Middle East, at a two-day conference that began on Tuesday.
Among US officials present are Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, assistants to the president Jared Kushner and Greenblatt, and US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, who is also a senior policy adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Structure of the plan and the current situation
The plan is divided into three parts: unleashing economic potential, empowering the Palestinian people, and enhancing Palestinian governance. Each section is around 10 pages long, which makes them appear equal in importance. The three sections are divided into sub-sections, where a total of 50 different topics are covered, from educational access to property rights and roads and rail connections. In this, the plan appears exhaustive.
What is immediately striking is that much of the plan, which looks more like a brochure or a snazzy business concept, are generalizations. Key phrases, such as “unleash, empower and enhance” are used to spotlight different parts of the concept. The plan is supposed to open a new chapter in Palestinian history, “one defined, not by adversity and loss, but by freedom and dignity.” The plan envisions that capital raised in support of the concept will be placed into a new fund “administered by an established multilateral development bank.” Basically, it sounds like replacing existing models of funding for the Palestinians, such as UNRWA, with a new fund whose leadership will come from the “beneficiary countries,” which will implement projects and give grants.
The plan appears to have two main goals in 10 years: double the GDP of the Palestinians, and create one million jobs. The World Bank says the GDP of the West Bank and Gaza is $14.5 billion. It actually doubled since 2009, when it was estimated at $7.2 billion, according to the World Bank. So, in fact, it has already doubled in the last 10 years.
The Palestinian GDP is larger than that of Somalia and South Sudan but smaller than Afghanistan’s. GDP per capita is around $2,200 in Ramallah, while it is more than $35,000 in Israel and $4,000 in Jordan. “Fifty years of occupation have driven the Palestinian economy into de-development and poverty,” said a report in 2017 from the UN Conference on Trade and Development. Agricultural output shrank by 11%, while unemployment was almost 30%. Gaza’s real per capita GDP shrank by 23% since 1994. Studies show that debt as a percentage of GDP is growing in the Palestinian Authority and that private spending will decrease.
A European External Action Service strategy document on supporting the Palestinians that looked at goals for 2017-2020 said the Palestinian economic situation is bleak and declining.
International aid to Palestinians already provides the economy with some help, even though the US has cut aid under the Trump administration. According to a report at Middle East Eye, the Palestinians received around $2.2 billion a year between 2006 and 2016, or $560 per capita, making them some of the “top recipients of non-military per capita aid in the world.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.] ______________________________________________________
The Path Between the Trump Peace Plan and Applying Israeli Law to Settlements Udi Dekel INSS Insight, June 16, 2019
The wait for US president Donald Trump’s plan for a political arrangement between Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab world—dubbed the “Deal of the Century”—has continued many months, and over the past year, the Trump administration has postponed its presentation time and again. Prior to the most recent postponement (due to the April election in Israel), the Trump administration had intended to present the plan in two stages; the first, devoted to the economic component, is to take place at the Bahrain workshop in late June. Israel’s political spin into another election in 2019 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government has disrupted the White House’s timeline for presenting the plan’s political component.
Yet President Trump wants to keep his promises and present his plan, even if conditions are not ripe for it to be accepted, let alone implemented. He reckons the plan will remain relevant in his second presidential term and will serve as a point of reference for any future diplomatic initiative between Israel and the Palestinians, as did its forebears—President Clinton’s parameters and President Bush’s letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In parallel, Trump is expected to support steps that Netanyahu will take to retain his role as prime minister of Israel. Yet these two goals also clash, given the expected difficulty of getting Netanyahu’s rightist supporters to support the plan (even if it is an unprecedentedly pro-Israel positions), which gives rise to a White House desire to avoid embarrassing Netanyahu by publishing the plan—a move liable to hurt his chances of re-election and heading a right-wing coalition. At this critical point in time, instead of offering the Palestinians concessions so that they might be persuaded, when all is said and done, not to reject the plan out of hand, and also responding to the appeals of the Arab countries that are the main partners to the process (primarily the quartet of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) to improve the terms for the Palestinians, the American team finds itself under pressure to tilt the plan even further toward Israel’s benefit, in order to assist Netanyahu.
The most convenient way out for the White House would be to postpone the presentation of the plan’s political component, which deals with the most sensitive of issues— borders, security, the status of Jerusalem, settlements and a resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem—until after the Israeli election to be held on September 17, 2019. Although a senior administration official said the plan would be presented “at the right time,” that time is becoming increasingly distant. A new Israeli government will not be installed before October, so presenting the plan can be expected to be delayed at least through November, when the 2020 US presidential race begins.
Principles and Essence
President Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, announced that the Trump plan does not propose a two-state solution, because each side interprets this principle differently; thus the plan does not call for the creation of a Palestinian state. With that, the Trump administration is terminating dozens of years of consistent American policy supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is the reason that all the Palestinian factions have pledged in advance to reject the plan out of hand and deem it a blueprint for continuing the Israeli occupation through other means. Furthermore, the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a member of the team drafting the plan, noted that it is meant to improve the lives of Palestinians although it may not necessarily lead swiftly to a permanent status agreement. It can be concluded that the current administration believes that improving the socio-economic situation of the Palestinian populace takes precedence over a full implementation of Palestinian national aspirations (a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders, whose capital is in East Jerusalem, with right of return for the refugees). … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.] ______________________________________________________
On Topic Links:
Kushner Reveals Peace Plan To Inject $50 Billion Into Middle East Economies:Times of Israel, June 22, 2019, includes Video of Reuters Interview with Jared Kushner — Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on Saturday revealed the long-awaited details of the economic aspect of the US peace plan, saying it would inject $50 billion into struggling economies in the Middle East over the next ten years.
The Promise of Trump’s Mideast Plan: Glenn Hubbard, Wall St. Journal, July 1, 2019 — The Trump administration’s Peace to Prosperity plan for the West Bank and Gaza is sensible and offers the best hope for building sustainable economies in the region. It may not be politically feasible: The Palestinian Authority boycotted the conference in Bahrain last week where Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner unveiled it.
50 Billion Reasons Why the PA and PLO Reject Peace for Prosperity: Maurice Hirsch, Times of Israel, June 30, 2019 — When you read Peace to Prosperity, the American economic plan to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the first question that comes to mind is why are Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA)/Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) rejecting it?