Trump's son-in-law has put himself in charge of revamping Palestine and the surrounding region with an economic plan critics say is 'illegal' and 'out of sequence.'
Trump’s “deal of the century” calls for a US$50 billion investment in the Middle East and Arab region with the hopes of revitalizing Palestine and neighboring country economies, according to parts of the document seen by Reuters.
Of that amount, US$5 billion will be used to construct a transportation corridor between the West Bank and Gaza, along with another 179 infrastructure and business projects, says Reuters.
The plan will be presented by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and close advisor, Jared Kushner, at a U.S.-led international conference in the Kingdom of Bahrain next week.
The 38-year-old said in his two interviews with Reuters that he sees his formula as a game-changer. "I laugh when they attack this as the 'Deal of the Century'," Kushner said of Palestinian leaders who say the administration’s document as a scheme to buy off their decades-long efforts to diplomatically negotiate for statehood.
Kushner’s "economy first" approach has led Palestinian leaders—and the vast majority of its business community—to boycott the conference set to be held in Manama, June 25-26.
"This is going to be the 'Opportunity of the Century' if they have the courage to pursue it," Kushner told Reuters.
The White House advisor likens his economic approach to the Marshall Plan that Washington introduced in 1948 to rebuild Western Europe from the devastation of World War Two. However, that plan 60 years ago was U.S-funded, unlike this latest initiative that would put much of the financial burden on other countries via a "multilateral development bank."
Kushner tells Reuters the administration is hoping wealthy Gulf countries, likely its allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, along with private investments, will help foot much of the bill to restructure the region.
Experts say they donor governments will be hard to find being that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is still hot. Palestinian officials reject the so-called peace effort because it limits them from forming a fully sovereign state, while prioritizing economics over decades of politics and diplomacy.
"This is completely out of sequence because the Israeli-Palestinian issue is primarily driven by historical wounds and overlapping claims to land and sacred space," said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for Republican and Democratic administrations.
More than half of the $50 billion would be spent on Palestine over 10 years while the rest would be allocated to Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. Some of the projects would be in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, where investments could benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza, an enclave that suffers from decades of economic and resource blockades by Israel.
The plan also proposes nearly a billion dollars to build up the Palestinians' tourism sector, seemingly impractical given the frequent and deadly attacks on Gaza by Israeli military forces.
Hanan Ashrawi, veteran political activist and executive committee member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) called the deal a “fictitious economic plan” that is "prejudicial and illegal" toward Palestine.
Kushner acknowledges that "you can't push the economic plan forward without resolving the political issues as well," but that the administration will "address that at a later time," when the second stage of the plan is revealed in November.
The White House didn't invite the Israeli government because of the Palestinian Authority’s intentional absence from the two-day event.