Photo Credit: Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90
Bethlehem Arabs protest against President Trump's “deal of the century”, June 22, 2019.

The Trump administration on Saturday unveiled the details of its $50 billion economic proposal, Peace To Prosperity, which it claims “will empower the Palestinian people to build a better future for themselves and their children,” just a few days ahead of White House adviser Jared Kushner’s development conference in Bahrain.

Not all the money will go to the PA and Gaza, though. According to Reuters, more than half of the $50 billion would be allotted to projects in the PA, over 10 years, with the rest of the money divided between Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

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Here’s the scary part: $5 billion will be spent on a corridor for Arabs in the PA and Gaza, that will run across Israeli territory, with a “major road” and possibly a railroad. There will also be upgrades to border crossings and ports of entry.

Thank you, Mr. Kushner…

But other than that truly disturbing part of the plan, the rest of it reads like the most rational and logical attempt to heal Arab society in the PA and Gaza, which is why we must be so grateful to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas who has gone out of his way on Saturday to reject it.

Abbas confirmed that no PA delegation would attend the upcoming Manama, Bahrain workshop called for by the United States.

“As for the Manama workshop in Bahrain, we said that we will not attend this workshop. The reason is that the economic situation should not be discussed before the political one,” Abbas declared at a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee in Ramallah. “As long as there is no political [solution], we do not deal with any economic [solution].”

Thank you, Mr. Abbas.

The new proposal is divided into three components, reflecting a thorough understanding of the real needs of Arab society outside the green-line which has been tormented by ruthless leaders who usurped its wealth and mostly kept to themselves billions in generous donations from abroad.

“The first initiative will UNLEASH THE ECONOMIC POTENTIAL of the Palestinians. By developing property and contract rights, the rule of law, anti-corruption measures, capital markets, a pro-growth tax structure, and a low-tariff scheme with reduced trade barriers, this initiative envisions policy reforms coupled with strategic infrastructure investments that will improve the business environment and stimulate private-sector growth. Hospitals, schools, homes, and businesses will secure reliable access to affordable electricity, clean water, and digital services. Billions of dollars of new investment will flow into various sectors of the Palestinian economy; businesses will have access to capital; and the markets of the West Bank and Gaza will be connected with key trading partners, including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon. The resulting economic growth has the potential to end the current unemployment crisis and transform the West Bank and Gaza into a center of opportunity.

“The second initiative will EMPOWER THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE to realize their ambitions. Through new data-driven, outcomes-based education options at home, expanded online education platforms, increased vocational and technical training, and the prospect of international exchanges, this initiative will enhance and expand a variety of programs that directly improve the well-being of the Palestinian people. It will strengthen the Palestinian educational system and ensure that students can fulfill their academic goals and be prepared for the workforce. Equally important, access to quality healthcare will be dramatically improved, as Palestinian hospitals and clinics will be outfitted with the latest healthcare technology and equipment. In addition, new opportunities for cultural and recreational activities will improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people. From parks and cultural institutions, to athletic facilities and libraries, this initiative’s projects will enrich public life throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

“The third initiative will ENHANCE PALESTINIAN GOVERNANCE, improving the public sector’s ability to serve its citizens and enable private-sector growth. This initiative will support the public sector in undertaking the improvements and reforms necessary to achieve long-term economic success. A commitment to upholding property rights, improving the legal and regulatory framework for businesses, adopting a growth-oriented, enforceable tax structure, and developing robust capital markets will increase exports and foreign direct investment. A fair and independent judicial branch will ensure this pro-growth environment is protected and that civil society flourishes. New systems and policies will help bolster government transparency and accountability. International partners will work to eliminate the Palestinian public sector’s donor dependency and put the Palestinians on a trajectory to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability. Institutions will be modernized and made more efficient to facilitate the most effective delivery of essential services for the citizens. With the support of the Palestinian leadership, this initiative can usher in a new era of freedom and opportunity for the Palestinian people and institutionalize the policies required for successful economic transformation.”

This is a well thought out plan, aimed at the actual source of suffering of Arab society, and offering realistic solutions. Heck, I’d love to see Israel adopting these principles. Alas, it’ll never happen (neither in the PA and Gaza nor in Israel).

The plan does not say anything about borders, returning “refugees” or the status of Jerusalem. It speaks at eye level to the Arabs of the PA and Gaza about rehabilitating the systems that govern their lives. In that sense it is truly masterful.

“This is going to be the ‘Opportunity of the Century’ if they have the courage to pursue it,” Kushner said of the leaders of these Arabs.

And, as expected, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, tweeted in response: “First lift the siege of Gaza, stop the Israeli theft of our land, resources &funds, give us our freedom of movement & control over our borders, airspace, territorial waters etc. Then watch us build a vibrant prosperous economy as a free & sovereign people.”

About which the late Aba Eban, had he been with us, would have tweeted back: “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Eternal wisdom.

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