Trump's Mideast Economic Peace Plan Rejected By Palestinian Leaders, Panned By Former Diplomats The White House unveiled its economic peace proposal for Palestinians on Saturday: $50 billion for Palestinians and countries in the region. It isn't clear who would contribute the funding.
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U.S. Mideast Plan Rejected By Palestinian Leaders, Panned By Former U.S. Envoys

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U.S. Mideast Plan Rejected By Palestinian Leaders, Panned By Former U.S. Envoys

U.S. Mideast Plan Rejected By Palestinian Leaders, Panned By Former U.S. Envoys

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Over the weekend, the White House released what it calls a new vision for building the Palestinian economy. Tomorrow, presidential adviser Jared Kushner convenes a workshop in Bahrain to ask countries and investors to pitch in $50 billion to underwrite this vision. The White House, though, has not said if it will contribute. And for a year, the U.S. has been cutting aid money to the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Palestinians have already rejected this economic plan.

NPR's Daniel Estrin joins me now from Jerusalem. Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hello there.

KELLY: Hey. So start with some detail on this plan. What exactly is in it?

ESTRIN: It's a list of more than a hundred projects talking about upgrading infrastructure and economy and hospitals and trade for Palestinians, which are all things that Palestinians really, really need. This plan is talking about creating a million jobs, about doubling the Palestinian GDP. And, actually, a lot of the projects that the White House is proposing are things that USAID has been doing but that the Trump administration simply defunded over the last year.

KELLY: So reception in the region - we mentioned Palestinians have already rejected this plan, and the Israelis are not even invited to this conference tomorrow. Is that correct?

ESTRIN: That's right. The White House says it's not inviting Israeli officials because it doesn't want to politicize this event. Several Arab countries are going to this event, but they're quite skittish about being there when the Palestinians are completely and utterly rejecting the U.S. approach. The Palestinians say their economy's being held back because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Israeli restrictions on things like building infrastructure in the majority of the West Bank.

Jared Kushner, who is the president's man putting all this peace plan together, says the Palestinians are missing the opportunity of the century. And here's what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had to say about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: He said, "we are not going to be slaves or servants to Kushner and his team." You know, his main point is, yes, Palestinians need money, but Palestinians need independence more.

KELLY: It sounds, Daniel, as though quite the challenging table being set before they even get underway tomorrow night in Bahrain. What are you expecting to actually come out of this meeting?

ESTRIN: That's a really good question, Mary Louise, because it's a series of panels discussing things like health care and upgrading the Palestinian infrastructure. There will be some Israeli private sector people there. There will be Arab investors there, American investors, but no sense whether there's actually going to be money put on the table if no one knows what the second half of the Middle East peace plan is, which is the political half. Jared Kushner says he's only going to present that part later this year.

KELLY: OK, so this is the economic slice of the U.S.-led...

ESTRIN: Right.

KELLY: ...Efforts for peace in the Middle East. We watch and wait to see what may happen on the political side.

ESTRIN: Exactly.

KELLY: I want to ask before we let you go, Daniel, about another gathering. There are meetings underway involving U.S. officials, also Russian officials. What's going on?

ESTRIN: Right. Well, national security adviser John Bolton is here. And tomorrow, he is meeting his Russian counterpart and his Israeli counterpart. They're going to be discussing Iran and Syria and regional issues. And defense analysts in Israel say this is basically what they expect to happen. Israel wants Russia to make Iranian forces leave Syria. And in return, the U.S. and Israel may offer a gesture acknowledging the reality that Assad will stay in power in Syria. We'll have to wait and see what comes out of the meeting.

KELLY: OK, so this is all about Iran and U.S. and Israeli efforts to get Russia on board with where they want to take that situation. All right, NPR's Daniel Estrin tracking a lot of moving parts there from Jerusalem.

ESTRIN: That's right.

KELLY: Thank you, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

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