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White House Unveils its Palestinian ‘Peace to Prosperity’ Plan

Margaret Talev and Rich Miller

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration will roll out the first part of its long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which aims to raise billions to help Palestinians and other Arabs in the region. Top Trump officials and business leaders will attend the unveiling of the plan, spearheaded by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, at a summit Tuesday in Bahrain.

Speakers at the investment summit will include business leaders including Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of Blackstone Group, Randall Stephenson, chairman of AT&T, and Tom Barrack, chairman of Colony Capital Inc., as well as World Bank President David Malpass and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, according to an administration official who declined to be identified because the details aren’t yet public.

On hand from the administration will be Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, special envoy Jason Greenblatt, Brian Hook, U.S. special representative for Iran, and Kevin Hassett, the outgoing chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and others.

The White House on Saturday unveiled a proposal to raise more than $50 billion in investments for the Palestinians, the centerpiece of the Bahrain meeting and the peace plan. Palestinian officials plan to skip the event and have criticized the U.S. approach to focus first on the investment plan.

Global Investment Fund

Trump pledged not long after his election to find the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians. Since then, Palestinians have since essentially broken off contact, saying Trump’s strong ties to Israel do not make him an honest broker.

The 40-page document from the Trump administration includes the creation of a global investment fund that the U.S. hopes will lift Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies.

The Kushner-led initiative was created with no formal Palestinian consultation, and Palestinian officials rejected the U.S. model again on Saturday after the plan was revealed.

“A-B-C economics is that no monetary value can predicate or substitute economic sovereignty, which is the first requirement for prosperity,” said Hosam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to the U.K. “Omitting Israeli occupation of Palestine is self-explanatory: the plan is designed to perpetuate it.”

One Million Jobs

The Kushner-led plan aims to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over 10 years with the aim of doubling the size of the Palestinian economy over that time, creating more than 1 million jobs and cutting the poverty rate in half.

More than half -- $27.8 billion -- would go to Gaza and the West Bank. Egypt would get $9.2 billion, Jordan, $7.4 billion and Lebanon $6.3 billion.

A signature project would be a $5 billion transportation network connecting Gaza to the West Bank designed to “fundamentally change the Palestinian economy,” according to the White House. It would include an interurban rail line linking many of the major cities of Gaza and the West Bank -- the two separate geographic areas that split Palestinians physically -- as well as connections to regional railways such as Jordan’s.

Among more than 200 proposed programs and projects are $2 billion to expand the Palestinian internet, $1 billion to help develop the Gaza Marine natural gas field, and $900 million for hospitals and health care facilities to acquire and upgrade equipment.

Foreign Direct Investment

“Ultimately, this project has the potential to unlock unprecedented levels of trade, grow exports, and increase foreign direct investment in the West Bank and Gaza and its neighbors -- particularly Egypt, Israel, and Jordan,” according to the White House plan.

Official delegations are expected in Bahrain from 21 countries including the U.S., Japan, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Italy, U.K. and France, according to the administration official. Total countries represented are 39.

“For too long the Palestinian people have been trapped in inefficient frameworks of the past. The ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan is a framework for a brighter, more prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region and a vision of what is possible if there is peace,” Kushner said in a statement.

‘Lift the Siege’

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, criticized Trump’s approach to seeking a Middle East peace accord.

“First lift the siege of Gaza, stop the Israeli theft of our land, resources & funds, give us our freedom of movement & control over our borders, airspace, territorial waters etc. Then watch us build a vibrant prosperous economy as a free & sovereign people,” Ashrawi said on Twitter.

Left for later -- perhaps after Israel’s elections in September -- is the political component of the plan, U.S. proposals on long-unresolved questions such as the control of Jerusalem, the fate of Israel’s West Bank settlements and the Palestinians’ aspiration for their own state.

In the development plan funds would also be set aside for improved courts and other elements of Palestinian governance, but with no reference independent statehood or the other contentious elements.

(Updated to include Palestinian comment.)

--With assistance from Hailey Waller, Sebastian Tong, Michael S. Arnold and Fadwa Hodali.

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net;Rich Miller in Washington at rmiller28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthew G. Miller at mmiller144@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny

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