$68b US plan for Palestinian economy draws criticism
Arab commentators and citizens dismiss initiative as a 'colossal waste of time', say peace is key
WASHINGTON: The United States said on Saturday that its Middle East peace plan to be presented next week in Bahrain aims to raise more than US$50 (S$68 billion) for the Palestinians and create one million jobs for them within a decade.
Unveiling details for the first time of its long-awaited peace initiative, US President Donald Trump's administration said it was looking to attract major international investment to the Palestinians and to dramatically improve infrastructure and internal governance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The conference tomorrow and Wednesday in Bahrain, led by Mr Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, is the opening of the US government's delayed peace effort, which officials have said will later include a political component.
"It (the plan) has the ability to fundamentally transform the West Bank and Gaza and to open a new chapter in Palestinian history - one defined, not by adversity and loss, but by freedom and dignity," the White House said.
It said the plan aimed to raise more than US$50 billion over the next decade, with a goal of more than doubling Palestinian gross domestic product.
The White House said the initiative had the power to transform the troubled Palestinian economy by creating more than one million jobs - bringing the unemployment rate down to the single digits, in line with developed economies - and reducing the poverty rate by 50 per cent.
Arab politicians and commentators greeted the plan with a mixture of derision and exasperation
The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the meeting.
"We don't need the Bahrain meeting to build our country, we need peace, and the sequence of (the plan) - economic revival followed by peace is unrealistic and an illusion," Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara said yesterday.
Commentators and ordinary citizens denounced Mr Kushner's proposals in strikingly similar terms: "Colossal waste of time," "non-starter" and "dead on arrival".
Egyptian liberal and leftist parties slammed the workshop as an attempt to "consecrate and legitimise" occupation of Arab land and said in a joint statement that any Arab participation would be "beyond the limits of normalisation" with Israel.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has dismissed Mr Kushner's plans as "all abstract promises", insisting only a political solution will solve the problem. It said they were an attempt to bribe the Palestinians into accepting Israeli occupation.
US-allied Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, will take part in the Bahrain meeting along with officials from Egypt, Jordan and Morocco. The White House did not invite the Israeli government. - AFP, REUTERS