FILE - In this March 25, 2019, file photo White House adviser Jared Kushner listens during a proclamation signing with President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington. Kushner will present the economic portion of his Mideast peace plan on June 25 in Bahrain, with some key players missing. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Bahrain conference: Peace critical for US plan for Mideast

June 26, 2019 - 4:39 am

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Stability and security are critical to the success of a $50 billion U.S. economic plan for the Palestinians that focuses entirely on infrastructure and development, omitting political aspects that are key to resolving to long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, international financial chiefs and global investors said Wednesday.

While welcoming the American initiative led by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, panelists at a conference in Bahrain aimed at boosting the ambitious plan said it would struggle without good governance, rule of law and a realistic prospect of lasting peace.

The Palestinians have already rejected the proposal because it does not include acknowledgement of their political demands, including an end to Israeli occupation and the creation of an independent state.

Despite the absence of those issues from the proposal and the Trump administration's refusal to endorse a two-state solution that has long been seen as the only viable path to peace, panelists sprinkled their comments with references to "Palestine," a "country" and a "nation-state."

Those words have not featured in U.S. officials' comments about a resolution to the conflict since Trump became president in 2017 and began cutting aid and political support to the Palestinians in what critics have cited as the U.S. administration's pro-Israel bias.

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, suggested that peace is the missing piece of the proposal.

The Palestinians have great economic potential that can only be fulfilled with serious reform and protections for investors that must include serious anti-corruption efforts, Lagarde said. Those, she added, are imperative for a "satisfactory peace .... to prosper."

Kushner's "Peace to Prosperity" proposal depends heavily on private sector investment in the West Bank, Gaza as well as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, where it envisions creating a million new jobs, cutting Palestinian unemployment to single digits, doubling the Palestinian gross domestic product and reducing the Palestinian poverty rate by 50% through projects in health care, education, power, water, tourism, transportation and agriculture sectors.

The plan acknowledges that its success hinges on the completion of a long-elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. But that necessity was driven home by participants at the two-day workshop in Bahrain.

"You are going to have to deal with the political thing in order to get investment," said Daniel Mintz, a founder of Olympus Capital Asia.

"Stability and security is key to investment in every country where we go," said Selim Bora, the president of the Turkish investment firm Summa. "Things don't have to be perfect, but we have to have a minimum level to go in."

Others said the plan could not succeed without the Palestinians having rights and dignity within their own state.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are represented by official delegations and many Arab nations that are attending the gathering in Bahrain have sent lower-level officials in a sign of their skepticism of the plan.

Also speaking at the conference on Wednesday are former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the head of the international football federation FIFA Gianni Infantino, and the lone Palestinian on the agenda, a West Bank businessman who is viewed with deep suspicion by many fellow Palestinians.

Palestinians on Tuesday protested the by the hundreds against the plan even as Kushner appealed for them to consider it.

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