The Trump administration launched a $50 billion economic formula for Israeli-Palestinian peace on Tuesday, saying an investment-driven pathway forward for the Palestinians was a necessary precondition for ending the decades-old conflict.
Opening a two-day international meeting in the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner said prosperity for Palestinians was not possible without a fair political solution to the conflict.
But he added that by working to develop the Palestinian economy, the result could be “a real peace that leads to prosperity”.
“We see tremendous potential,” he said, adding the focus of the White House was on how to break deadlocked peace efforts.
The Palestinian leadership has previously reiterated its disdain for the plan and Saudi Arabia, envisaged as one of its main bank-rollers, has also indicated some reservations.
The meeting has been billed as the first part of Washington’s broader political blueprint to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But the political details of the plan, which has been almost two years in the making, remain a secret. Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments are attending the curtain-raising event in Manama, which Lebanon and Iraq are staying away from.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was scathing about its prospects of success.
“Money is important. The economy is important. But politics are more important. The political solution is more important.”
Washington will be hoping that attendees in Manama such as wealthy Gulf states will show a concrete interest in the plan, which expects donor nations and investors to contribute $50 billion to Palestinian territories, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia - a close U.S. ally which shares a common foe with Israel in Iran - voiced support on Tuesday for “international efforts aimed at improving prosperity, investment and economic growth in the region”.
But Riyadh reiterated that any peace deal should be based on the Saudi-led Arab peace initiative that has been the Arab consensus on the necessary elements for a deal since 2002.
That plan calls for a Palestinian state drawn along borders which predate Israel’s capture of territory in the 1967 Middle East war, as well as a capital in East Jerusalem and refugees’ right of return - points rejected by Israel.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Kushner is “committed to the initiatives of Israel’s colonial settlement councils.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, said Israel was open to the plan. “We’ll hear the American proposition, hear it fairly and with openness,” he said on Sunday.
Expectations for success are low. The Trump team concedes the economic plan - billed “Peace to Prosperity” - will be implemented only if a political solution to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts is reached.