by: Ilse Strauss
Tuesday, 25 June 2019 | Mere days after being chosen as America’s next commander in chief, US President Donald Trump revealed that the Middle East peace process would receive a top spot on his administration’s foreign policy itinerary. Once his presidency started, he told the Wall Street Journal in November 2016, he would endeavor to put a stop to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which he referred to as the “war that never ends.”
“That is the ultimate deal,” Trump acknowledged. “As a deal maker, I would like to do…the deal that cannot be made.”
Nearly three years of speculation, anticipation and preparation later, the first part of Trump’s “Deal of the Century” kicks off in Manama, Bahrain tonight. Entitled “Peace to Prosperity,” the economic chapter of Trump’s Israeli–Palestinian peace push will see representatives from around the world gather for the two-day confab that will seek to hammer out a strategy for raising billions of dollars to kick-start a Palestinian economy—in the event that a peace deal is reached.
While the guest list for the workshop includes top diplomats, officials and business people from a host of nations—including Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and Morocco—there will be no government representation from the two entities under discussion: Israel and the Palestinians.
The reason for the conspicuous absence is two-pronged. Ever since Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Palestinians have vowed to shun all Trump’s future efforts for peace, including rejecting the “Deal of the Century” outright before knowing what it entails and boycotting attendance of the Bahrain economic workshop. Given the Palestinian absence, Bahrain subsequently decided to exclude Israel from the list of invitees in a bid to level the playing field.
The White House released the plan to be workshopped—“Peace to Prosperity—the Economic Plan: A New Vision for the Palestinian People”—on Sunday. The 40-page document outlines key objectives and initiatives to bring economic stability and prosperity to the Palestinian people by plowing US $50 billion into 179 infrastructure, education, trade and tourism initiatives. According to the plan, oil-rich Arab nations are expected to chip in to make up the US $50 billion. A total of US $28 billion is reportedly earmarked for uplifting the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria and Gaza—including a transportation link connecting the two areas. Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon also stand to receive a share of the fund.
The plan received lackluster reviews. Critics say the document fails to address the main political and other core issues at the heart of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. This also seems like the main sticking point for the conference. While heavy on economic strategy and brimming with the promise of future prosperity, critics point out that the seven-page program does not include discussions to resolve to the critical issues driving the conflict. Moreover, a critical component of the plan—the Palestinian leadership—has not only snubbed its nose at the plan and called on its people to join a three-day demonstration showing their displeasure with any and all initiatives emanating from the workshop.
In a matter of hours, Jared Kushner, Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law, will formally open the long awaited confab. Over the course of the next 48 hours, the likes of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the head of soccer’s world governing body FIFA Gianni Infantino and a number of prominent business people will take to the stage to offer their take on facilitating Palestinian prosperity for a peaceful Middle East. At the same time, chants of “No to the Deal of the Century,” and “No to the Bahrain workshop,” continue to resound in Ramallah.
Perhaps i24News summed up the situation best: “High hopes, but low expectations.”
Posted on June 25, 2019
Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 25, 2019)
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