0846 GMT July 17, 2019
Palestinian officials dismissed proposals unveiled by President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner for big money projects to form the first economic portion of the Trump administration's long-awaited Middle East peace plan.
Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara rejected the recently-released details about the economic section of the US-devised plan as an “illusion” that will fail to bring about peace, Press TV reported.
The June 25-26 conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, which the Palestinian Authority is boycotting, will discuss US-led proposals, set to be presented by Kushner, for an economic vision that is part of a wider plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Reuters reported.
The Trump administration's $50 billion Middle East economic plan calls for creation of a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies, according to US officials and documents reviewed by Reuters.
While some Arab states are attending the meeting, the plan has drawn rebuke as an attempt to circumvent Palestinian demands for an independent state on lands captured in the 1967 war.
“We don’t need the Bahrain meeting to build our country, we need peace, and the sequence of (the plan) — economic revival followed by peace is unrealistic and an illusion,” Bishara in an address to Sunday’s meeting at Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital city of Cairo.
“First of all give us our land and our freedom.”
Also Senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Hanan Ashrawi said Kushner's plans were "all abstract promises" and said only a political solution would solve the conflict.
Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian negotiator and member of the executive committee of the PLO, said only a political solution that ended Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories would solve the conflict.
Speaking to Reuters by phone from the West Bank city of Ramallah, she said: "If they really care about the Palestinian economy they should start by lifting the siege of Gaza, stopping Israel stealing our money and our resources and our land and opening up our territorial waters, our airspace and our borders so we can freely export and import."
She said the Trump administration's stance was an "entirely wrong approach", adding: "They can end the occupation, which is the most basic requirement for prosperity. There can be no prosperity under occupation."
No Palestinian officials belonging to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' PLO and Palestinian Authority will attend the conference in Bahrain. The White House said it decided against inviting the Israeli officials because the PA would not be there.
More than half of the $50 billion would be spent in the economically troubled Palestinian territories over 10 years while the rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. Some of the projects would be in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where investments could benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza, a crowded and impoverished coastal enclave.
"Palestine isn't for sale"
Hamas official Ismail Rudwan rejected Kushner's proposals.
"We reject the 'deal of the century' and all its dimensions, the economic, the political and the security dimensions," Rudwan told Reuters.
"The issue of our Palestinian people is a nationalistic issue, it is the issue of a people who are seeking to be free from occupation. Palestine isn't for sale, and it is not an issue for bargaining. Palestine is a sacred land and there is no option for the occupation except to leave," he said.
Broad Arab rejection
Arab politicians and commentators greeted the Trump’s Middle East $50 billion economic vision with a mixture of derision and exasperation, although some in the Persian Gulf called for it to be given a chance, Reuters reported.
Several Persian Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, will take part along with officials from Egypt, Jordan and Morocco. Lebanon and Iraq will not attend.
“Those who think that waving billions of dollars can lure Lebanon, which is under the weight of a suffocating economic crisis, into succumbing or bartering over its principles are mistaken,” parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, said.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah has previously called the plan “an historic crime” that must be stopped.
Arab analysts believe the economic plan is an attempt to buy off opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land with a multi-billion dollar bribe to pay off the neighboring hosts of millions of Palestinian refugees to integrate them.
The lack of a political solution, which Washington has said would be unveiled later, prompted rejection not only from Palestinians but also in Arab countries with which Israel would seek normal relations.
From Sudan to Kuwait, commentators and ordinary citizens denounced Kushner’s proposals in strikingly similar terms: “colossal waste of time,” “non-starter,” “dead on arrival.”
Egyptian liberal and leftist parties slammed the workshop as an attempt to “consecrate and legitimize” occupation of Arab land and said in a joint statement that any Arab participation would be “beyond the limits of normalization” with Israel.
Jawad al-Anani, a former senior Jordanian politician, described widespread suspicion after Trump’s decisions to move the US Embassy to Al-Quds and recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.
“This is an unbalanced approach: it assumes the Palestinians are the more vulnerable side and they are the ones who can succumb to pressure more easily,” he said. “This is a major setback for the whole region.”
Azzam Huneidi, deputy head of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s main opposition said: “The economic plan is the sale of Palestine under the banner of prosperity in return for peace and with no land being returned ... A deal with Arab money.”