The Trump administration on Saturday unveiled a 50 billion dollar (£40 billion) Palestinian investment and infrastructure proposal intended to be the economic engine to power its much-anticipated but still unreleased “deal of the century” Middle East peace plan.
The scheme, which calls for a mix of public and private financing and intends to create at least a million new jobs for Palestinians, was posted to the White House website ahead of a two-day conference in Bahrain.
The conference is being held amid heavy scepticism about its viability and outright opposition from the Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday reiterated his rejection of the proposal and the conference.
The so-called Peace to Prosperity workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday will also take place amid heightened regional tensions over Iran that threaten to overshadow its goals.
With no official participation from the two main protagonists, Israel and the Palestinians, and scant enthusiasm from others, continued uncertainty and strong doubts over the plan’s political vision and the distraction of potential US-Iran conflict, expectations are decidedly low.
President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner faces high hurdles in building support for the initiative.
The 10-year plan calls for projects worth 27.5 billion dollars (£21.5 billion) in the West Bank and Gaza, and 9.1 billion dollars (£7.1 billion) , 7.4 billion dollars (£5.8 billion) and 6.3 billion dollars (£4.9 billion) for Palestinians in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, respectively.
Projects envisioned include those in the healthcare, education, power, water, high-tech, tourism, and agriculture sectors.
It calls for the creation of a “master fund” to administer the finances and implementation of the projects that it says are akin to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after the Second World War.
The plan foresees more than doubling the Palestinian gross domestic product, reducing the Palestinian poverty rate by 50% and cutting the sky-high Palestinian unemployment rate to nearly single digits, according to the documents, which do not specify exactly how the projects will be funded.
It also calls for linking the West Bank and Gaza with a modern transportation network, including high-speed rail service.
“Generations of Palestinians have lived under adversity and loss, but the next chapter can be defined by freedom and dignity,” the White House said, calling the plan “the most ambitious international effort for the Palestinian people to date”.
Palestinian leaders, angered by what they and their supporters see as blatant US bias toward Israel, want nothing to do with the workshop and will not participate.
The Palestinians have called for mass demonstrations against the conference on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The plan cannot pass because it ends the Palestinian cause,” Mr Abbas said on Saturday.
“We are not going to attend this workshop, the reason is that the economic situation should not be discussed before a political situation, so long as there is no political situation, we do not deal with any economic situation.”
In Gaza, the rival Hamas militant group has also condemned the conference. “In one voice, we say no to the Manama workshop and the deal of the century,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said.
Since Trump took office, he has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, downgraded the consulate devoted to Palestinian issues, shut down the Palestinian office in Washington and slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.