US pushes Middle East economic plan in face of Palestinian disdain and doubts

Reuters- Debriefer
2019-06-26 | Since 5 Month

The Trump administration sought on Wednesday to win support for an economic plan it says will be a foundation for Israeli-Palestinian peace but which Palestinians and many other Arabs dismiss as pointless without a political solution to the decades-old conflict.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner opened a international meeting in Bahrain on Tuesday evening by urging Palestinians, whose leadership is boycotting the event, to think outside the “traditional box” for an economic pathway that he said was a precondition for peace.

International Monetary Fund managing director, Christine Lagarde, told the first panel session that the Fund’s experience in conflict-riven countries around the world showed it can be a struggle to generate economic growth in such an environment.

Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments are attending the event. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, said Israel was open to the proposal.

In Gaza on Tuesday, the Islamist group Hamas and its rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas convened a gathering of leaders and activists in a rare show of unity to voice their rejection of the Manama conference.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh criticized Arab states participating in the workshop, which 300 delegates are attending including Israeli and Palestinian businessmen.

The conference aimed to finish off the Palestinian cause under the cover of economic and financial benefits, he said.

 “The (Palestinian) people, who have been fighting for one hundred years, did not commission anyone to concede or to bargain. Jerusalem is ours, the land is ours, and everything is ours,” Haniyeh said.

Although U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates discreetly support the plan, several Arab states, such as Lebanon, have stayed away while others including Jordan and Egypt, the two Arab nations that have reached peace with Israel, have sent deputy ministers.

The presence of Sunni Muslim Gulf states in Manama showed they want to encourage closer ties to Israelis - with whom they share a common foe in Shi’ite Iran - that have largely been under the table, said David Makovsky, a U.S.-based Middle East expert attending the event.

 “(But) it’s clear they won’t bypass the Palestinians and do anything they don’t want,” he told Reuters.

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