Kushner pushes economic plan for Mideast peace

President Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner is at a summit in Bahrain to push ahead with the administration’s plans to provide “prosperity to the Palestinian people and across the Middle East” through a proposed $50 billion investment over the next 10 years. But missing from the discussions are two key delegations that would be affected by the policy: the Israelis — who weren’t invited — and the Palestinians, who are boycotting the summit.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco are participating in the summit in Manama. Kushner, in an interview with Al Jazeera just before he left for Bahrain, was optimistic about the success of the event. In addition to the five Arab countries, international investors are also attending.

Over the weekend, the White House quietly rolled out its “Peace to Prosperity” plan as the first phase in its “new, ambitious, but achievable vision for a brighter, more prosperous future for the Palestinian people and broader Middle East.” It’s an effort that addresses Palestinian economic prospects prior to the release of the administration’s political plan for Middle East peace.

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The White House, which compares the proposal to the Marshall Plan, calls for the creation of a million jobs for Palestinians and the construction of trade routes connecting Gaza and the West Bank, at a cost of $27.5 billion.

“The approach includes initiatives that aim to unleash Palestinian economic potential, empower the Palestinian people, and enhance Palestinian governance,” the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

The plan does not specify who’s providing the proposed $50 billion in funding. Palestinians have already rejected Kushner’s economic plan for them as dead-on-arrival.

Kushner, who has has been tasked by the president to help solve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said in a statement, “For too long the Palestinian people have been trapped in inefficient frameworks of the past. The ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan is a framework for a brighter, more prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region and a vision of what is possible if there is peace.”

Other Trump administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, are expected to attend the Manama summit, too.

The political plan to address Middle East peace, however, is still pending, and may be unveiled in the fall.

Kushner said any peace plan coming from the U.S. would not be able to follow “along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative,” a Saudi-led deal brokered in 2002 that outlined key steps to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I think we all have to recognize that if there ever is a deal, it’s not going to be along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative,” Kushner told Al-Jazeera on Monday. He added, “It will be somewhere between the Arab Peace Initiative and between the Israeli position.”

In the 2002 deal, Arab leaders offered Israel an “official” end to the Arab-Israeli conflict and “normalization” of diplomatic ties in exchange for a complete withdrawal from Arab territories occupied since the Six Day War in 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights as well as the “acceptance and of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state” on those given Palestinian territories.

The initiative was re-endorsed over the years by the Arab League but never implemented by both parties.

Kushner called the plan “a great effort” but said that “if that was where a deal was going to be made, a deal would have been made a long time ago.”

Kushner and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt have been drafting the Trump administration’s long-awaited plan for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians for some time, and have touted its preparation several times since the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and the opening of the new U.S. Embassy there in May.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman had previously cautioned the Trump administration’s Middle East team, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, not to roll out the White House plan at a time that would in any way interfere in Israeli elections. Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won re-election, he failed to form a governing coalition and has now dissolved parliament and called for snap elections.

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