A collapsed deal of the century and a blank US diplomacy

Palestine Update 259
Opinion
A collapsed deal of the century and a blank US diplomacy

In a recent article, Haaretz has described Trump’s Bahrain Debacle as a crash of Trump Team’s campaign to bring Palestinians into submission.  They have categorized Kushner’s Peace for Prosperity Utopian projects as ones that are designed to be funded by non-existent money as part of a peace deal that won’t happen. A cynical view of Bahrain has deemed it as ‘political circus  replete with political trickery and buffoonery’. The exercise entertained the world for a couple of months.

The Bahrain scheme was yet another attempt of a mediocre-out-of-touch colonial-racist machination to force a solution against the will of the Palestinian people. Kushner and his father-in-law might have just read an interesting concept from a book on ‘Creativity and Innovation’ from a Management book and decided to apply it on Palestine. They fumbled and climbed the top of the hill to roll it down in full view of the world. Trouble is the plan itself did a kind off Humpty Dumpty act and it is somewhat doubtful if the Empire can ever put Mr. Dumpty together again.

Political mediation needs honesty and even handedness. That has not been the case with the US on the question of Palestine. Not ever. Nor can the US be expected to complete the job having lost every ounce of credibility it might have had.  The Bahrain Plan was rooted in misconceptions (deliberately drawn up despite its flaws).

A Conference of Churches for Middle East Peace that concluded over the weekend noted tersely: “While the document’s authors correctly identify many of the Palestinian economy’s most pressing needs, they fundamentally misdiagnose the root causes of its problems. Under-development in the Palestinian territories is not the result of natural market forces; it is the direct product of over fifty years of Israeli military occupation and policies explicitly designed to stifle the Palestinian economy”. That statement went on to argue:  Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) believes a political solution that grants the Palestinian people their full freedom and right to self-determination is a necessary prerequisite to economic prosperity. Even the most thorough and well-planned economic development proposals will ultimately fail if this most basic condition is not met…If the Trump administration is serious about improving the lives of Palestinians, it can begin by restoring the aid that it cut to the Palestinian people and applying pressure on Israel until it grants Palestinians their freedom and rights.‘Peace to prosperity’ is simply not a plan.

Critics say 50 billion $ scheme is doomed  to fail because it doesn’t offer political answers to the conflict,and because it is predicated on an assumption that Palestinian national aspirations can be acquired for money.

Ranjan Solomon


Jared Kushner’s Economic ‘Peace’ Plan Is an Embarrassment
In the fall of 2014, I sat around a table in the State Department with forty representatives of Israeli and Palestinian civil society and the peace team of then Secretary John Kerry. After failing to get his framework agreement released as the proximity talks between the parties had broken down, we were there to ask why there had been no focus on bottom up peacebuilding during the attempt. The senior advisors told the room that there was no bandwidth or budget for a focus on civil society efforts, and the team had been laser focused on security arrangements and a $4 billion economic package.

This weekend when the White House released its economic pitch deck promising $50 billion investments as the economic aspect of the ‘ultimate deal’. Despite Jared Kushner and the whole team claiming they were rejecting failed frameworks, here was another massive-scale infrastructure push, only this time without any input from the Palestinian business community or governing authority. Whereas Kerry had failed while everyone was in the room at a $4 billion push, here the Trump team was attempting a $50 billion push with none of the Palestinian beneficiaries willing to speak to them.
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Important or nonsense – What is Peace to Prosperity?
The White House calls it “a vision to empower the Palestinian people”, the Palestinian Authority says it is “simply nonsense”. What is ‘Peace to Prosperity’ and why is it causing such controversy?

‘Peace to Prosperity’ is an economic workshop taking place in Manama, the capital of Bahrain from 25 – 26 June, 2019, jointly sponsored by the US Government and the Bahraini royal family. The conference was based on a 40-page document of the same name produced by the White House.

‘Peace to Prosperity’, which calls for investment in the Palestinian territories, is the brainchild of President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, adviser Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
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U.S. pushes Palestinian economic plan despite doubts, hostility
Despite withering criticism, charges of hypocrisy and outright rejection from the intended beneficiaries, the Trump administration is plowing ahead with a $50 billion economic proposal to aid the Palestinians and hopes it will drive a much-anticipated but unseen Mideast peace plan.

The United States has attracted only lukewarm support from its traditional partners in Middle East peacemaking and is convening the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop this week in the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain under the shadow of rising tensions with Iran that could ignite regional conflict. The two-day conference that begins Tuesday in Manama has drawn governmental and private sector participants from dozens of countries, but lacks official Israeli or Palestinian delegations.
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Palestinians tell Trump money is not the key to peace 
On Monday the long-delayed “Peace to Prosperity” conference opened in Bahrain. US President Donald Trump’s attempt to bring peace to the Middle East involves investing over 50 billion dollars in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But the Palestinians don’t buy it.

Finance officials headed to Bahrain on Monday for a US-led peace conference intended to raise billions in investments. Led by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, the Peace to Prosperity economic workshop is the opening shot of a long-delayed initiative that will later include political solutions to the Middle East conflict. Unlike previous high-profile peace initiatives, the new plan will be an intimate affair opening Tuesday evening with cocktails and dinner at a luxury hotel in Bahrain which, like other Gulf states has increasingly found common cause with Israel due to their shared hostility towards Iran.

The plan proposes raising more than $50 billion in fresh investment for the Palestinians and their Arab neighbours, with major projects to boost infrastructure, education, tourism and cross-border trade.
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Gazans slam US conference in Bahrain

Palestinian men sit around a makeshift coffin with the words
“No to the deal of the century”.,

Palestinians slam a Washington-sponsored conference in Bahrain to discuss US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century. The US plans to unveil the economic part of its Middle East plan during the conference. Press TV’s Ashraf Shannon has a report.
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Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ falls flat in West Bank
“I cannot imagine the Manama workshop will produce any results because it was based on a mistake.”
More than two years after US President Donald Trump promised a plan to end the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict, the first stage is being officially revealed at an economic workshop in Bahrain. Many of the 179 projects listed in his new paper – such as a highway and possible rail link between the West Bank and Gaza – have previously been suggested. However, the language is vaguer than that used by past peace brokers – disclosing little about the political aspect of the plan, which is expected to be released later this year.

Business under occupation‼!???
There is no mention of statehood – a Palestinian aspiration that has underpinned previous peace plans but which the White House has yet to commit to – or significant investment in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as capital of their hoped-for future state. It skirts around issues such as Israeli settlements in occupied territory, Palestinian refugees, establishing mutually agreed borders and addressing Israel’s security concerns. That leaves many ordinary Palestinians deeply skeptical.

“From what we saw when [Trump] became president, unfortunately he’s done nothing to help the Palestinian economy,” says Issam Rbaiya, a fruit and vegetable seller from the village of Urtas. Rbaiya complains that water shortages and settlement growth have made it impossible for him to make a living by farming his family land. Settlements are seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees and the US has recently held off criticizing them.

“Doing business in this country is unlike anywhere else in the world. We are a Palestinian business under occupation,” says Mdees Khoury at the Taybeh brewery, near Ramallah. Instead of promising aid or outside investment, she says, a lot could be achieved by finding ways to ease Israeli restrictions – measures Israel says are for its own protection. “There needs to be international pressure on the Israelis to loosen up because Palestinians are very smart people, they’re very determined and if they just get the chance to be left alone they could thrive and succeed,” she says.

Palestinian boycott
Palestinian leaders – who have cut off ties with Washington, accusing it of being biased towards Israel – were quick to dismiss the new economic blueprint. “OK, we need economic help, the money and the assistance but before everything we need a political solution,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told foreign journalists
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Trump deal: “…a fantasy that is completely divorced from reality.”
The whole plan is contingent on a political solution to the seven-decade conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which looks further away than ever. The Palestinians have rejected the US as a broker because of the Trump administration’s unequivocal support for Israel, and in particular the rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu. “We have realized that this economic workshop in Bahrain is going to be really nonsense. It is just simply a theoretical piece of work calling for $50bn,” Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian authority prime minister, said.

“In fact, the Kushner document is not a plan at all. It is more like a wish list of all the economic projects that have been or could be proposed in a world where there is no Israeli occupation/siege and where there is virtually unlimited funding,” said Khaled Elgindy,
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The US’s Middle East ‘peace summit’ is nonsense
– Palestinians are right to boycott it

In the toxic history of the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinians have often been accused of “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. This familiar charge has been repeated in the run up to an extraordinary event taking place in the Gulf state of Bahrain, convened by the US and starting on Tuesday.

The Manama “workshop” – downgraded from “conference” to lower already rock-bottom expectations – is designed to discuss the “Peace to Prosperity” plan unveiled by the White House on Saturday. The document, the result of two years’ work by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has already been subject to a torrent of undiplomatic abuse.

Palestinians have made clear that they will not attend Manama – apart from the odd businessman prepared to defy a broad national consensus that unusually unites Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip.
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