White House’s Kushner to address Palestinian economic plan on Mideast tour

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Palestinians boycotted June Bahrain meeting and have poured scorn on Trump’s plan, deriding it as ‘economy first’ approach doomed to fail.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner will lead a US delegation on a tour of the Middle East to finalise details of his proposed $50bn economic development plan for the Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, an administration official said on Sunday.

Kushner, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, State Department official Brian Hook and Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz are expected to make stops in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the official told Reuters. They leave late this month and return to Washington in early August.

“We would like to finalise the plan’s economic portion, including to discuss the potential placement of the investments,” a senior administration told the Times of Israel, referring to the investment package for the Palestinians and the wider region proposed by the plan.

The delegation’s trip is to be understood as the conclusion of the first stage of the peace plan’s unveiling, but not yet as the overture to the presentation of the political component, the official told the Times of Israel.

They will also discuss the possibility of locating the development fund in Bahrain, the official said.

Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and the plan’s main architect, sought to build support for his ambitious economic proposals for the Palestinian territories at an international meeting in Bahrain in June.

Palestinians boycotted the meeting and have poured scorn on the Trump administration’s plan, deriding it as an “economy first” approach that is doomed to fail.

Under the plan, donor nations and investors would contribute about $50bn over 10 years, with $28bn going to the Palestinian territories – the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip – as well as $7.5bn to Jordan, $9bn to Egypt and $6bn for Lebanon.

During Kushner’s conference in Manama, Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was scathing about its prospects of success.

“Money is important. The economy is important. But politics are more important. The political solution is more important,” he said.

Hamas, which governs Gaza, found itself in rare agreement with its arch-rival Abbas. “The Palestinian people only and no one else can represent the Palestinian cause,” Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said.

Still, US Gulf Arab allies said the economic initiative had promise if a political settlement were reached.

Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week discussed creation of the fund with World Bank President David Malpass, the official said. The World Bank is to have a role in managing the fund.

Still, the delegation was not expected to discuss Trump’s long-awaited political plan for the Middle East, and when that will be released still remains unclear.

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