The White House has officially released the economic part of a plan for peace in the Middle East. With leadership from the U.S. and multiple Arab countries convening in Bahrain for a “workshop”, President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan will be at the center of discussion.
Yet even before the release of the 38 page document, the Palestinian Authority announced that they would effectively boycott the workshop. Meanwhile, Bahrain chose not to invite any Israeli officials to the event as to not appear one sided.
While at first glance it may seem that this plan is dead before seeing the light of day, what ideas does this historically pro-Israel White House have in mind for peace?
Trump’s plan lays out an economic vision for the Palestinian people. The overall goals are to invest up to $50 billion over the next 10 years in various economic programs, educational sectors, business ventures, agricultural improvements, social programs, and government transparency.
With a mixture of exciting language, flattering cultural references, and colorful graphics; the plan feels like it’s missing something. While it is important to approach every proposal with an open mind, there are some real reasons to be skeptical about the feasibility, practicality, and potential impact of the plan.
Let’s start with the fact that the nation of Israel is mentioned only 6 times in the plan. Each of these times it is listed with other neighboring countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, but never is mentioned by itself.
Part of the plan is to expand transportation in the West Bank and Gaza – including roads and rails – but there is no mention of why the expansion hasn’t already happened or the barriers in it happening.
The document states: “To sustain economic growth, Palestinian goods and people must be able to easily and securely move across borders… This project will also upgrade facilities at key crossing points along borders and construct new ports of entry. Upgraded or newly constructed terminals will be equipped with the latest border crossing technology, and older terminals will be refurbished and improved with amenities for travelers to use while in transit. Ultimately, this project has the potential to unlock unprecedented levels of trade, grow exports, and increase foreign direct investment in the West Bank and Gaza and its neighbors…”
While that sounds lovely for the Palestinian people and it is necessary for economic growth, there is a reason why their border crossings are not easy to access: terrorists and terrorist threats. Yet, the plan lays out no map as to why Israel, Egypt, or Jordan should be so trusting to go along with this proposal.
The final part of the plan dedicates $330 Million to “Enhancing Palestinian Governance.” What exactly does it entail? The plan states its goals are to,
- Improve government transparency, achieving a Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index score of 60 or better
- Implement an e-government system, achieving a United Nations E-Government Development Index score greater than 0.75
- Enact a sustainable public-sector budget Enhance the business environment, achieving a World Bank Doing Business ranking of 75 or better
How this is achieved? The words “implement this” or “setup that” run rampant in the section, but how exactly does the U.S. intend to make the Palestianian government more fair and transparent with $330 million in grants and investments?
Is more financial aid the answer? Since 1994, bilateral assistance from the U.S. has totaled more than $5 billion, and U.S. contributions to UNRWA since 1950 total at more than $6 billion.
These amounts are just the from the U.S. The World Bank estimates that in 2008 the P.A. received $1.4 billion in aid, in 2009 $1.5 billion in aid, and in the first half of 2010 the aid already hit $525 million. In 2014, $5.4 billion in pledges were gathered for the reconstruction of Gaza following the Israeli Operation Protective Edge and budget support for the P.A.
Yet today the World Bank estimates that, “The unemployment rate [for the West Bank] was 31 percent in 2018—with 52 percent of Gaza’s labor force unemployed, including two out of every three youth.” Both Hamas (the political power in Gaza) and the Palestinian Authority have been caught in recent years diverting massive amounts of cash to fund terrorist activities. With their historical misuse of aid funds, why would the U.S. offer such a plan and trust these political leaders to use it on what it’s actually allocated for?
The reality is that the people in Gaza and the West Bank are suffering. Not just from unemployment, but from mediocre healthcare services, reduced amounts of electricity, lack of opportunity, and low educational standards. One cannot overlook these points especially when looking at the Gazan people. As much as our humanity calls out to help them, is it not all in vain if the governing bodies do not have their own people’s interest in mind?
Peace to Prosperity portrays the West Bank and Gaza almost as if they were an independent country simply suffering from developmental problems. It rings heavily of a two state system. While this is just the first part of President Trumps peace plan, and with the fact that it’s already being rejected by the P.A. administration calling it a “bribe”; one has to wonder just what is the White House’s goal in this proposal.
After all, the Trump administration had announced in February that they were cutting all aid to the West Bank and Gaza, and now they want to bring them $50 billion over the course of 10 years?
Something doesn’t add up, and while the western world plays their games has anyone asked what the Palestinians really want? What the Israelis really want? Is anyone taking into account that the culture in Israel and the West Bank/Gaza is not that of the U.S.? Perhaps motives will become more clear over the next few months, but this initial plan is a puzzling beautiful dream at best.