Jun 25,2019 – JORDAN TIMES – OSAMA AL SHARIF
Reading through the document, which the White House has released few days before the convening of the Bahrain workshop, one would think that its authors are living in a parallel universe, where peace in the Middle East has already been achieved, and that all that is needed now is to deliver its economic rewards. “Peace to prosperity: A new vision for the Palestinian people and the broader Middle East” is a synopsis of the economic plan that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will reveal in Manama to a largely sceptical and reluctant audience.
In the very first paragraph the presentation says: Generations of Palestinians have lived without knowing peace, and the West Bank and Gaza have fallen into a protracted crisis. Yet the Palestinian story will not end here. The Palestinian people continue their historic endeavour to realise their aspirations and build a better future for their children.
But the entire document/vision fails to mention, even once, the one thing that has prevented generations of Palestinians from knowing peace or realising their aspirations: Israeli occupation! It is as if their suffering is of their own doing and no one else is to blame. The word “Palestine” is missing too, and one is sure that those who wrote the economic plan were deliberate in omitting references to Israel’s occupation, Palestinian struggle to rid themselves of it and their aspiration to have their own independent state.
Kushner has said before that he and his team wanted to take a new approach to one of the most complex conflicts in modern times. He also brushed aside the historical excess baggage that comes in dealing with the Palestine-Israel conflict. With his real-estate business background, Kushner and company believed that a deal can be struck based on economic incentives only while ignoring the realities created by over five decades of occupation.
The economic plan provides forensic evidence of the ideological idiosyncrasies and approach to resolving the conflict; one that lays clues to what the political part of the plan will look like; that is if it even exists or will be disclosed in the future.
But to be fair, the economic plan itself is a valuable document and an interesting roadmap towards invigorating the Palestinian economy, that is once the state of Palestine is born and the Palestinian people are free to rule themselves. Kushner and company have suggested a hypothesis, albeit a creative one, that may be useful in the future, but certainly not now.
Yes the region desperately needs peace and prosperity, and the nascent Palestinian state will require generous investments in its infrastructure, which has been crippled by decades of Israeli aggression. But the elephant in the room, which is occupation, is so omnipresent that ignoring it renders the Bahrain workshop a total waste of time for everyone.
Ironically, the event took place when both the Palestinians and the Israelis are absent.
By ignoring the political aspect of the conflict, Kushner and company had proved themselves to be politically naïve and overreaching in doing their homework, while failing at it too. Palestinian abstention notwithstanding, the Israeli far-right, under Benjamin Netanyahu, is showing no interest in the entire exercise and for good reasons. Why should it when it had received free gifts from the Trump administration even before the “deal of the century” was conceived.
Removing Jerusalem from the negotiating table, defunding UNRWA, burying the two-state solution and recognising the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory, the latter being the icing on the cake, had debunked any legitimate effort to find a just and lasting solution to the Palestine-Israeli conflict and beyond. With these free gifts, Netanyahu and his extreme right partners have no incentive to sit and negotiate a deal. They may even go as far as annexing major chunks of the West Bank before Trump’s term in office expires.
For the rest of the world, still living in the real universe, the Bahrain workshop will be viewed as one more failed attempt, as disingenuous and fanciful as it may be, to resolve the region’s most complex conflicts. Its core remains Israeli occupation and Israel’s refusal to abide by international resolutions and conventions. For the Palestinians, their struggle will continue and their yearning for peace and prosperity will never waver.
One could thank Kushner and company for one thing though: Their ineptitude and failure to respect the Palestinians and appreciate their suffering have given much-needed publicity to the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause all over the world. One could find tonnes of indictments of the Kushner plan on social media and in world press by activists and commentators from all over the globe, including Israel and the United States. To put it in Trumpian language: People are getting educated about the Palestinians and their plight under occupation like the world has never seen before!
Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman