Event Type: 
22/07/2019(星期一) PM 05:45

By: David Parsons VP and Senior International Spokesman

Fifty Billion Reasons to Embrace Israel
After two years of build-up, the Trump administration finally began rolling out its long-awaited Mideast peace plan this week, coaxing Bahrain to host an “economic workshop” which highlighted the massive financial incentives the Palestinians could enjoy if only they would opt for peace with Israel at long last.
Palestinian leaders boycotted the event and convinced the host country not to invite Israeli officials, to avoid the appearance of Arab “normalization” with Israel. So the once-imagined photo-op failed to materialize of Arab and Israeli officials sitting together mapping out the future of the region absent the Palestinians.
Yet by all accounts, White House special adviser Jared Kushner – the son-in-law to President Donald Trump – acquitted himself well in laying out the ambitious $50 billion investment package which would be used over the next ten years to lift the Palestinians out of poverty, create one million new regional jobs, and even spur the economies of neighboring Arab states.
And when critics dismissed the plan’s departure from the long-accepted pathway to peace, Kushner retorted that the old two-state formula was an “ineffective framework” which had never produced the desired result, so why cling to it. “That is why agreeing on an economic pathway forward is a necessary precondition to what has previously been an unsolvable political situation,” he countered.
There were some upbeat participants who described the investment package as a modern-day Marshall Plan for the troubled Middle East. Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, even described the US proposal as a possible “gamechanger” on a par with Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem and the 1978 Camp David Accords. He also acknowledged that Israel is a reality in the region and has the right to exist. “We do believe that Israel is a country to stay, and we want better relations with it, and we want peace with it,” he affirmed.
"Israel is a country in the Middle East," Al Khalifa continued. "Israel is historically part of the heritage of this whole region. So the Jewish people have a place amongst us."
But true to form, the Palestinian Authority outright rejected the Trump team’s blueprint for peace, insisting they will never accept a “bribe” to compromise on their rights and claims.
It was not the first time an American president had vainly waved boatloads of cash in front of the Palestinians to entice them to finally reconcile with Israel. The Clinton peace plan some two decades ago promised $30 billion in aid to resettle and compensate Palestinian refugees, with most of those funds meant to be distributed directly to displaced Palestinian families.
In contrast, the emerging Trump peace plan would make Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon recipients of a good portion of Trump’s lucrative investment package if they agree to fully absorb and enfranchise the Palestinian refugees living inside their borders. This novel approach is quite a tempting offer for these economically struggling Arab nations, and rumors of such an offer have had the Jordanian monarchy on edge for months over the possible backlash among the kingdom’s Palestinian majority. PA leaders in Ramallah were equally nervous that other Arab rulers would accept the money at their expense.
Interestingly, on the same day as the “Peace to Prosperity” conference in Bahrain, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency was holding a meeting of donor countries in New York and received $110 million in pledges to help fill the huge gap in its $1.2 billion annual budget left when the US pulled its funding last year. Though only a pittance compared to the huge figures being bandied about in Bahrain, it shows the international community remains willing to continue wasting its money perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem more than three generations after its inception.
There is still the matter of unveiling the crucial political framework of the Trump peace plan, which is now apparently on hold once more until after Israel forms a new government sometime around November. Yet by then, the US presidential campaign will be heating up and Trump will be reluctant to upset his Evangelical base with a peace deal which would pose risks to Israel.
Wherever he is headed with his “deal of the century,” Trump has already made some major, lasting contributions to peace in the way he has jettisoned the tired old diplomatic formulas and, equally important, the way he has challenged UNRWA and its twisted, self-defeating definition of Palestinian “refugees.”
Meantime, the Palestinians managed to keep their fellow Arabs from embracing Israel one more time, but it is making less and less sense to do so every single day. And there are now fifty billion new reasons why.