Even as he faces a torrent of criticism for his overtly pro-Israel take on the Palestinian conflict, President Trump seems convinced that his grand plan is the only viable solution.
Rabat – The White House has uncovered the first phase of the Trump administration’s much-awaited “deal of the century” for the Israel-Palestine Conflict.
The deal appears to put greater emphasis on the economic and human development approach to crisis management, reiterating the Trump administration’s desire to go beyond what it perceives as decades of ideological and ineffective diplomacy in the Palestine-Israel question.
In its latest announcement on the preparation phase of the “deal of the century,” Washington referred to plans for a workshop on the economic prospects of the deal, in late June of this year.
On Sunday, the White House announced that it was organizing a “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25 and 26. Washington said the workshop is expected to bring together finance ministers along with global and regional business leaders to discuss the economic future of the disputed regions once a permanent solution is brokered.
The choice of finance ministers and business leaders instead of foreign affairs ministers and diplomats is a sufficient indication of the current White House’s plan to upend the traditional way in which the US has tried to broker a peace deal in the Middle East’s longest running and most complex crisis.
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who is believed to be the mastermind behind Trump’s Middle East deal, told CNN on Sunday that one crucial element of the Trump administration’s philosophy in the Palestinian conflict is to draw attention to aspects of the crisis that have been willfully ignored by successive Washington establishments.
According to Kushner, the deal’s central idea is to get past decades of apparently unfounded hostility and move forward, towards a “realistic and viable” political future for the region.
Kushner said, “People are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist.”
At the Manama workshop, participants are expected to dodge the political—and by extension social—aspects of the conflict, especially pertaining to the fate of Palestinians’ demand for an independent state as well as the status of Jerusalem.
Instead, debates will revolve around ways to make the disputed regions—especially Gaza and the West Bank—investment hubs and more business-friendly metropoles.
Veiled in Trump’s grand plan is the push to modernize and develop the region to subsume Palestinians’ grievances and demands for self-determination. Kushner explained that the first phase of the project will consist in devising an economic plan for the aftermath of the conflict.
With infrastructure, industry, financial empowerment, and grand investments as its core elements, the economic plan will aim at making “the [disputed] area as investible as possible,” according to Kushner.
A doomed master plan?
Also central in the White House’s announcement of its “Peace to Prosperity” conference is the Trump’s administration’s confidence that its way is the only way.
Even as Trump faced—and continues to face—an outpouring of criticism over his unapologetically Evangelical and overwhelmingly Israel-friendly stance on the Middle East’s oldest conflict, the US president has remained unbowed. Judging by Sunday’s announcement, the Trump administration seems to ooze an unbreakable attachment to the security of Israel.
But the deal’s principal selling point is that, while upholding Israel’s security concerns, the plan will simultaneously guarantee human development and economic prosperity opportunities for Palestinians. According to the White House, the workshop aims to “facilitate discussions on an ambitious achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinians.”
But while Trump wants to kill two birds with one stone—bend the peace plan to Israel’s will while providing guarantees for better economic prospects for Palestinians, the Palestinian leadership is not buying Trump’s idea.
Instead, a number of senior Palestinian officials said in the aftermath of the White House’ announcement, Palestinians will not bow down to “blackmail” from Washington.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesperson to Palestine’s Mahmoud Abas, said that there will be no genuine peace discussions if the political aspect of the conflict is not given the spotlight it deserves. “Any plan without political horizons will not lead to peace,” the Palestinian official said.
Saeb Erekat, a well-known Palestinian senior diplomat and negotiator, was even punchier and more scathing in his assessment of Trump’s deal. Erekat complained that the Trump administration did consult the Palestinian leadership about the “reported workshop—neither over the content, nor the outcome, nor timing.”
Having been previously adamant that Trump’s Jerusalem move definitely disqualified him as a “serious and reliable broker,” the Palestinian diplomat said in reaction to the planned deal that Palestinians will not engage with Trump’s peace terms.
“All efforts to make the oppressor and the oppressed coexist are doomed to fail,” Erekat said. “We do not submit to blackmail and we do not trade our political rights for money.”