In interview ahead of Bahrain conference, Trump son-in-law says US proposal would create a million jobs for Palestinians, drop unemployment by over 20% and half poverty rate

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman claps as Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner delivers a speech during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on Saturday revealed the long-awaited details of the economic aspect of the US peace plan, saying it would inject $50 billion into struggling economies in the Middle East over the next ten years.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency three days ahead of the Washington-led economic workshop in Bahrain, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law said that over half of the funds ($28 billion) would go toward the West Bank and Gaza Strip while $7.5 billion would go to Jordan, $9 billion to Egypt and $6 billion to Lebanon.

“If you can also get that whole region starting to lift, and if you can get a quicker flow of goods and people in all the different areas that are necessary in industry instead of bullets and munitions and war, then I think that will really lead to a big increase in investment in the area and more jobs and better quality of life and hopefully more peace along with it,” Kushner said.
Separately on Saturday, the White House released its “Peace to Prosperity” economic plan, a 40-page document focusing on detailing initiatives to unleash Palestinian “economic potential,” “empower,” the Palestinian people and “enhance Palestinian governance.”
The Palestinians have strongly opposed the conference and urged Arab states to stay away, arguing it will be placing economic issues ahead of reaching a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the report, fifteen billion of the total $50 invested would come from grants, $25 billion from subsidized loans and roughly $11 billion from private capital.

The plan would also fund 179 economic projects in areas such as infrastructure, water, power, telecommunications, tourism and medical facilities; 147 of the projects would be in the Palestinian territories, 15 in Jordan, 12 in Egypt and five in Lebanon.

Tens of millions of dollars in funds would be reserved for projects that would help further link the Gaza Strip with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula through upgrading power lines and increasing electricity flow.

The plan also seeks to inject $950 million in the Palestinian tourism industry, according to Reuters.

The Trump adviser leading Washington’s peace efforts told the news agency that the plan would create roughly 1 million jobs in Gaza and the West Bank, drop their employment from 30% to the single digits, reduce the Palestinian poverty rate by half and double their GDP.

Fifty-three percent of Palestinians in Gaza live in poverty, a June 2018 United Nations report said. Eighty percent depend on international aid, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency, the main international organization that provides health, education and other services to Palestinian refugees.

Gaza is run by the Hamas terror group and Kushner did not address how the plan, which includes funding for infrastructure linking Gaza to the West Bank, would deal with this and the failure of the Palestinians to reconcile.

“The reason we’re calling this a workshop and not a conference is because we want to get feedback and hopefully finalize it so that we can then coordinate a lot of the aid efforts and investing efforts to really drive these results,” Kushner said. The White House is hoping that wealthy Gulf states would provide the bulk of the funds, but that it is considering pitching in as well.

Funds raised at the workshop would be administered by a multinational development bank managed by an appointed board of governors, according to Reuters, which reviewed documents related to the plan in addition to speaking with Kushner and several of his top aides.

Kushner suggested that the US plan has some similarities to the Marshall Plan, an American initiative passed in 1948 to jump-start economies in Western Europe after World War II.

“One of the things that they did successfully [with the Marshall Plan] is that they didn’t just give aid but they infused money into the private sector and they created an environment in which businesses could thrive and capital could be invested. This is a similar notion [that we’re trying to do],” he explained.

Responding to the Palestinian Authority’s decision to boycott the June 25-26 Bahrain summit and declarations from Arab states that they would not budge on their requirement that the US plan see to it the creation of a Palestinian state, Kushner asserted that Washington “care[s] about the Palestinian cause.”

However, he avoided discussing the idea of Palestinian political sovereignty and stressed how the US plan would  help move the Palestinians “move forward economically.”

Kushner stuck to the pre-stated White House’s position that it will introduce the political side of its plan at a later date, but assured that this section would not be ignored.

The White House said earlier this month that it wants to wait until after a new Israeli government is formed. The Knesset elections are scheduled for September 17, and it usually takes several weeks for coalition negotiations to conclude.

Initially, US and Israeli officials indicated that high-ranking members of the Israeli government would be invited to the event as well. But earlier this week, the White House said that no Israeli officials would be present in Manama.