White House’s Kushner unveils economic portion of Middle East peace plan

White House's Kushner unveils economic portion of Middle East peace plan
White House's Kushner unveils economic portion of Middle East peace plan

The Trumpadministration's $50 billion Middle East economic plan calls for creation of aglobal investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab stateeconomies, and construction of a $5 billion transportation corridor to connectthe West Bank and Gaza, according to U.S. officials and documents reviewed byReuters.

The "peace toprosperity" plan, set to be presented by President Donald Trump'sson-in-law Jared Kushner at an international conference in Bahrain next week,includes 179 infrastructure and business projects, according to the documents.The approach toward reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process wascriticized by the Palestinians on Saturday.

The economicrevival plan would take place only if a political solution to the region'slong-running problems is reached.

More than half ofthe $50 billion would be spent in the economically troubled Palestinianterritories over 10 years while the rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanonand Jordan. Some of the projects would be in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, where investmentscould benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza, a crowded and impoverishedcoastal enclave.

The plan alsoproposes nearly a billion dollars to build up the Palestinians' tourism sector,a seemingly impractical notion for now given the frequent flareups betweenIsraeli forces and militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza, and the tenuous security inthe occupied West Bank. (For factbox with more on the plan see )

The Trumpadministration hopes that other countries, principally wealthy Gulf states, andprivate investors, would foot much of the bill, Kushner told Reuters.

The unveiling ofthe economic blueprint follows two years of deliberations and delays in rollingout a broader peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians,who are boycotting the event, have refused to talk to the Trump administrationsince it recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in late 2017.

Veteran Palestiniannegotiator Hanan Ashrawi dismissed the proposals on Saturday, saying:"These are all intentions, these are all abstract promises" and saidonly a political solution would solve the conflict.

Kushner made clearin two interviews with Reuters that he sees his detailed formula as agame-changer, despite the view of many Middle East experts that he has little chanceof success where decades of U.S.-backed peace efforts have failed.

"I laugh whenthey attack this as the 'Deal of the Century'," Kushner said ofPalestinian leaders who have dismissed his plan as an attempt to buy off theiraspirations for statehood. "This is going to be the 'Opportunity of theCentury' if they have the courage to pursue it."

Kushner said somePalestinian business executives have confirmed their participation in theconference, but he declined to identify them. The overwhelming majority of thePalestinian business community will not attend, businessmen in the West Bankcity of Ramallah told Reuters.

Several Gulf Arabstates, including Saudi Arabia, will also participate in the June 25-26U.S.-led gathering in Bahrain's capital, Manama, for Kushner's rollout of thefirst phase of the Trump peace plan. Their presence, some U.S. officials sayprivately, appears intended in part to curry favor with Trump as he takes ahard line against Iran, those countries' regional arch-foe.

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