US will present Palestinian economic plan amid global criticism
MANAMA, Bahrain — Despite withering criticism, charges of hypocrisy, and outright rejection from the intended beneficiaries, the Trump administration is plowing ahead with a $50 billion economic proposal to aid the Palestinians and in the hopes that it will drive a much-anticipated but unseen Mideast peace plan.
The United States has attracted only lukewarm support from its traditional partners in Middle East peacemaking and is convening the ‘‘Peace to Prosperity’’ workshop this week in the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain under the shadow of rising tensions with Iran that could ignite regional conflict. The two-day conference that begins Tuesday in Manama has drawn governmental and private-sector participants from dozens of countries, but lacks official Israeli or Palestinian delegations.
The event includes presentations from President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and the heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. But the seven-page program for the workshop contains no discussion of how to resolve the political disputes at the core of the conflict.
The administration acknowledges that its ambitious economic proposals are contingent on acceptance of a political plan, which will not come out until the fall.
‘‘How anything could come out of that agenda is hard to know,’’ said Shibley Telhami, a Mideast scholar and the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland.
The program does not mention Israel or Palestine and refers to Palestinians by name only four times. One of those references is in the description of the sole Palestinian participant with a speaking role at the meeting, a West Bank businessman who works with Israeli settlers and is viewed with suspicion by his many fellow Palestinians.
The administration has refused to endorse a ‘‘two-state solution,’’ a goal long viewed by many as the only viable way to secure lasting peace, and the 40-page proposal and its longer annex do not use the phrase. Nor do the documents offer any hint as to who will pay for the programs, which include health, education and public works projects in the West Bank, Gaza, and for Palestinian communities in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
Lebanon is boycotting the conference. Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab nations with peace treaties with Israel, are sending only midlevel officials. Their acceptances of invitations to Bahrain, similar to those of other Arab states, include the caveat that they will not support a peace deal that the Palestinians won’t accept.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said Monday that his country is participating to listen to the proposal. ‘‘We have the right to evaluate and review it,’’ he said in an interview with Russia Today. But, he added, ‘‘the final decision is for the Palestinian Authority.’’
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is having none of it. ‘‘The workshop was meant to address the economic problems, but the real problem is the political one,’’ he said Sunday. ‘‘The Palestinians are seeking an entity, statehood, and after that we look at the economy.’’
Hundreds of Palestinians on Monday protested against the conference, pouring into the streets of West Bank cities, from Hebron to Nablus; many burned effigies of Trump and Bahrain’s king. Protesters in Ramallah carried a giant coffin labeled ‘‘Bahrain workshop’’ and signs that said ‘‘The Deal of the Century is doomed.’’