If a real estate developer pitches a $50 billion timeshare presentation at a seminar in Bahrain, and nobody shows up to take it seriously, is it really a plan to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? That’s the approximate weight given by most observers— those who bothered to observe— to the “deal of the century,” crafted by senior White House advisor Jared Kushner, who also happens to be President Trump’s son in law. Kushner unveiled the economic portion of the plan at the “Peace and Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain on Tuesday.
The centerpiece of the 96-page plan, likened to a real estate brochure drafted up by a consulting firm, is “the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over ten years,” for the Palestinian territories and neighboring states. The document suggests myriad projects, to boost agriculture and tourism, fix infrastructure within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and improve Palestinian governance. Per The Economist, the program would be funded “by a mix of grants, concessional loans and private-sector money” from the Gulf States and others.
With a salesman’s sense, Kushner urged the small, mid-level delegations of countries not directly involved in the conflict to “imagine a new reality in the Middle East,” one in which tourism and international business could thrive. “We can turn this region from a victim of past conflicts into a model for commerce and advancement across the world,” Kushner said. Left unmentioned were the many, many issues involved on the political side of the equation, including but not limited to the status of refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, whether the Palestinians will ever get a state of their own, and what the borders of such a state would be. That’s by design, Kushner said. The political portion of the deal will probably wait until after Israel’s mulligan election in the fall.
The Palestinians boycotted the event, in protest of the Trump administration’s plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and cuts to Palestinian aid programs. “The deal of shame will go to hell,” Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said in May. The Israelis weren’t invited. Egypt and Jordan sent their deputy finance ministers. One European diplomat said simply, “we tried to find the lowest level of representation that wouldn’t be offensive.” Few seem to hold out much hope that Palestinians will accept a $50 billion check in exchange for permanently abandoning the quest for statehood.
Trump’s plan— delegated to his son-in-law— and the reaction to it, reflect the degree to which the rest of the world has lost interest in both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Palestinians themselves. Few in Israel will say they support a two-state solution, an idea to which even Benjamin Netanyahu once paid lip service. The Palestinians too seem to have given up, realizing that no strategy or method— from peaceful negotiation to uprisings and terror campaigns— has gotten them any closer to anything resembling independence. Even the other Arab countries, long seen as benefactor, defender, and spokesman against the “Zionist Regime,” seem ready to throw the Palestinians under the bus. Their concern is rising Persian, Shia Iran, and the U.S, and increasingly, Israel, can help. Peace in the Holy Land may be farther apart than ever. Both sides appear to have moved on, without the Palestinians.