Arab states refuse U.S. economic plan for Middle East

WNM | Jun 23, 2019 at 1:02 PM

RIYADH/AMMAN/CAIRO, June 23 (Reuters) - Arab politicians and commentators greeted U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East $50 billion economic vision with a mixture of derision and exasperation, although some in the Gulf called for it to be given a chance.

In Israel, Tzachi Hanegbi, a cabinet member close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, described Palestinians' rejection of the "peace to prosperity" plan as tragic.

Set to be presented by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner at a conference in Bahrain on June 25-26, the blueprint envisions a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighbouring Arab economies and is part of broader efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestininan peace process.

"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 on Sunday.

The lack of a political solution, which Washington has said would be unveiled later, prompted rejection not only from Palestinians but also in Arab countries with which Israel would seek normal relations.

From Sudan to Kuwait, commentators and ordinary citizens denounced Kushner's proposals in strikingly similar terms: "colossal waste of time," "non-starter," "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.

While the precise outline of the political plan has been shrouded in secrecy, officials briefed on it say Kushner has jettisoned the two-state solution - the long-standing worldwide formula that envisages an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

"ANOTHER TRAGEDY"

The PLO has dismissed Kushner's plans as "all abstract promises," insisting that only a political solution will solve the problem. It said they were an attempt to bribe the Palestinians into accepting Israeli occupation.

On Israel Radio, Hanegbi said Washington had tried to create "a little more trust and positivity" by presenting an economic vision but had touched a raw nerve for Palestinians.

"They are still convinced that the whole matter of an economic peace is a conspiracy, aimed only at piling them with funds for projects and other goodies only so that they will forget their nationalist inspirations. This of course, is simply paranoia, but it's another tragedy for the Palestinians," he said.

Jawad al-Anani, a former senior Jordanian politician, described widespread suspicion after Trump's decisions to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognise Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights.

"This is an unbalanced approach: it assumes the Palestinians are the more vulnerable side and they are the ones who can succumb to pressure more easily," he said. "This is a major setback for the whole region."

Azzam Huneidi, deputy head of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, the country's main opposition said: "The economic plan is the sale of Palestine under the banner of prosperity in return for peace and with no land being returned ... A deal with Arab money.