8 December 2023

An attempt by Trumps’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to convince Arab delegates in Bahrain to buy into a “special” economic deal for Palestinians was a pathetic attempt by the US and Israel to steal more land, writes an Al Qalam Reporter

Palestinians will never be bribed to give up their precious land, no matter how much money the US throws at it, said Professor Suleman Essop Dangor of the department of Islamic Studies, School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu Natal, in Durban,

Dangor was commenting at the end of a conference in Bahrain where the US was trying to sell an idea that would see $50-billion injected into the Palestinian economy.

“But at what price? asked Dangor. Clearly, he said, the “Deal of the Century” as it is dubbed was designed to create an environment where the Palestinians would be fully dependent on Israel for their survival.

He said he was disappointed that Arab dictators had had the temerity to even host such a workshop, knowing full well that Palestinians would never buy into such bribery. He said many Arab disctatorships had never supported the Palestinian people,and only paidlip service when it suited them.

“The Arab dictatorships will go along with whatever the US and Israel tells them,” he added.

Meanwhile, Martin Chulov of The Guardian. Reports that  the ‘deal of the century’ was little more than a failed clearance sale. Jared Kushner arrived in Bahrain touting bedrock principles at untenable discounts. And even then there were no buyers.

The conference that was supposed to offer a new way out of the malaise of the Israel/Palestine conflict provided little of the sort. Its central premise of prosperity as a precursor to a lasting solution barely appeared to register on either side of the separation wall.

In Ramallah and Gaza, there was very little interest in the Trump administration’s proposals. Even in Israel, local media played down the gathering and did nothing to ramp up expectations.

The $50bn (£39bn) pledged, effectively as a start-up fund for the region’s Palestinians, was less than enthusiastically received in Jordan, Egypt and in Lebanon – where leaders in Beirut, not usually inclined to turn away from a $6bn money pot, dismissed the pitch as a shameless bribe.

Economic incentives to integrate Palestinian communities around the region and revitalise the West Bank and Gaza economy were widely viewed as redundant in the glaring absence of a political dimension that could turn such pledges in to realities.

No-one wanted to talk politics in Manama. In the place of a formula that had underwritten peace initiatives for decades came the expectation that the Trump Administration should be trusted to deliver a just and equitable peace, if and when a political dimension comes around.

To say such a demand was a tough sell would be one of the year’s great understatements. The current US administration has been overwhelmingly supportive of the Israeli agenda and openly dismissive of the Palestinians – a fact that led to a boycott of the workshop by Palestinian leaders.

Kushner arrived in Manama as the self-styled envoy who could shake things up, and finally bring traction to a peace process that had gone nowhere in the past decade and had shown real signs of disintegrating.

 “Frankly, we demand an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967,” said Ashraf Jabari, chair of the Palestinian Business Network. Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said of Kushner’s plan: “It is totally divorced from reality. The elephant in the room is the occupation itself.”

The Palestinian position ahead of the conference was as weak as it has ever been; the US had withdrawn humanitarian aid funding, shuttered its missions in the West Bank and Gaza, and kicked out its diplomats from Washington. Its economy has stagnated, political structures broken down and the rule of law across the territories continues to be tested.

As the conference wound down, Tony Blair, who bought into the notion of economic growth being a reboot for the Palestinian economy during his time as head of the Quartet a decade ago, stressed to Kushner the need to abide by the principles of two states and for economic and political initiatives to give heft to any plans. He failed to draw a commitment, and the conference ended with a pledge that whatever comes next will be “fair and just” for both sides.

“It’s absolutely foolish to believe you can have economics without sound politics, but it’s likewise completely futile to think politics will work without economics buttressing it,” Blair told the gathering.

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