US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has appealed for Palestinians to consider his 50 billion dollar economic support plan.
As Palestinians protested against the plan on the streets of the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere, Mr Kushner kicked off a two-day workshop in the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain aimed at building support for his economic vision and overcoming heavy scepticism about prospects for its success.
Mr Kushner said: “My direct message to the Palestinians is that despite what those who have let you down in the past have told you, President Trump and America has not given up on you.
“This workshop is for you and if this is executed correctly it will lead to a better future for the Palestinian people: a future of dignity, prosperity and opportunity.”
Mr Kushner’s audience in Bahrain did not include any official Palestinian delegation. Nor was Israel, which will have to sign off on many of the proposal’s projects, represented by government officials.
Those who heard Mr Kushner in person were Arab finance ministers, the heads of international financial organisations and global business executives and investors.
While the representation was broad, many countries’ delegations were not headed by cabinet ministers, an indication of their uncertainty about the proposal’s viability.
The Palestinians have rejected the proposal – which aims in 10 years to create a million new jobs, slash unemployment and improve living standards in the West Bank, Gaza and across the Middle East – because it does not include a horizon for ending Israel’s occupation and granting independence.
US officials say the political portion of the plan addressing such thorny issues may not be released until the autumn.
Mr Kushner acknowledged that a political solution is key to the success of the economic proposal. He said it was first more important to set out what is economically possible.
“Agreeing on an economic pathway forward is a necessary precondition to resolving what has been a previously unsolvable political situation,” he said.
But, without proposals on borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, the Palestinians say the economic plan is meaningless.
To express their rejection, Palestinians in Gaza called a general strike to protest the meeting, with demonstrators in the West Bank burning effigies of Mr Trump and featuring a donkey pasted over with images of Gulf royals.