The White House over the weekend released its economic plan to create a global investment fund to bring prosperity to Palestinian territories and neighboring Arab state economies, as part of its long-anticipated strategy for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The plan, dubbed “Peace to Prosperity,” envisions bringing more than $50 billion in investment over ten years to transform the West Bank and Gaza — akin to a Marshall Plan, except it would rely on foreign business investment versus aid funding.
Indeed, the goal of the plan is to end Palestinian reliance on donor aid entirely and create a thriving business sector that will help develop their economy from the ground up. Of the more than $50 billion, $26 billion would be from low-interest loans, $13.5 billion would be from grants, and $11.5 billion would be from private capital.
The plan would fund projects to improve nearly every aspect of life for Palestinians, such as a $5 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza. The plan includes 179 infrastructure and business projects. It envisions creating a million jobs over tehn years in the West Bank and Gaza, reducing the unemployment rate from 30% to single digits, reducing their poverty rate by half, and doubling their GDP.
Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president and his son-in-law, has worked on the plan for the last two years.
“I would have to say that this is one of the hardest problems that exist in the world, and there’s been a lot of attempts at it, which I think have all been very well-intended, and noble attempts to try and solve it,” he told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Saturday.
“What we’re hoping to do is to create a framework where we can change the discussion and get people to look at these problems differently and more granularly, and hopefully in a way that can lead to some breakthroughs,” he said.
Specific details of the plan were released by the White House on Saturday, ahead of a two-day workshop in Manama, Bahrain, where a U.S. team led by Kushner will meet with regional finance officials, businesspeople, and stakeholders. Palestinian officials are planning to boycott the workshop, although some Palestinian business leaders are expected to show up.
“The reason we’re calling it a workshop and not a conference is because we want to get feedback and hopefully finalize it so that we can then coordinate a lot of the aid efforts and investing efforts to really drive results,” Kushner told Reuters.
The political peace plan was expected to be released before the economic plan, but that was postponed until after parliamentary elections later this year. The economic plan would only take place if a political peace plan is agreed upon.
The economic plan has been criticized by Palestinian leaders and Middle East experts in Washington as impractical, especially without having the political peace plan. Kushner defended the plan in a recent exclusive interview with Reuters as a novel effort to change the paradigm of a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians completely.
“We view our job as to ‘try.’ It’s very easy to find reasons why this could fail, we think about that all the time, but our job is to try to be more optimistic and to come up with situations that could maybe change the paradigm, and I hope by seeing this plan that we’ve spent a lot of time working on…people start to look at this problem from different lens,” he said.