Trump, Kushner and the ‘Deal of the Century: An Unoriginal Proposal
By Hamza Ali Shah
Not only was the so called ‘peace to prosperity’ as part of the ‘deal of the century’ or ‘opportunity of the century’ proposal overwhelmingly and firmly rejected by most parties at the Bahrain workshop – it has also been proven to be unoriginal and lacking creativity, as it stole the ideas from academic research.
Kushner insisted that years of work from him and his aides had been invested to present this vision and was assisted by up to 850 professors in the process, but findings suggest otherwise.
It appears as though the core ideas and the backbone of this programme have been poached from the economic section of a comprehensive piece of academic research conducted by Columbia University in 2010, which was also endorsed by then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on behalf of the Quartet – nations and international and supranational entities involved in mediating the Israeli–Palestinian peace process.
To compound matters, when one of the key participators of the research that was conducted by Columbia University, David L. Philips, was asked about the originality of Kushner’s workshop ideas, he proclaimed that it was ‘nothing new’.
The academic project, titled ‘PROJECT PALESTINIAN ENTERPRISE: Promoting Economic Development in the Palestinian Territories’ provided detailed and sweeping overview of the problems hindering economic development.
Then the subsequent section, ‘sectors and business opportunities’ explored the options that could pave the way for expansion. This chapter is broken down into different sections and how to improve them, including infrastructure, construction, agriculture and fisheries, information technologies and telecommunications.
In Kushner’s ‘peace to prosperity’ programme, which was presented in Manama, Bahrain, recently, under the subheading of ‘unleashing economic potential’, a ‘new foundation for the Palestinian economy’ and an ‘ambitious business environment’ – precisely the same topics that the Columbia academic research alluded to – are highlighted.
Likewise, in the academic research, there is emphasis made on the need to provide adequate transport links so that access between the West Bank and Gaza is made effortless. There are also mentions of reduced travel complications for journeys to neighbouring countries such as Egypt, which will simultaneously enhance relations.
These exact ideas are replicated in Kushner’s scheme. His proposal stipulates ‘Major investments in transportation and infrastructure will help the West Bank and Gaza integrate with neighbouring economies, increasing the competitiveness of Palestinian exports and reducing the complications of transport and travel. To complement these investments, this plan will also support steps to improve Palestinian cooperation with Egypt, Israel, and Jordan, with the goal of reducing regulatory barriers to the movement of Palestinian goods and people.’
Furthermore, regarding the development of the private sector, the Columbia University academic research accentuates the need for an innovative approach to the private sector that would maximise and strengthen the institutions so that the economic needs of Palestinian families, not just Palestinian businessmen are met.
Unsurprisingly, such sentiments were mirrored in the programme presented by Kushner and his team. The proposal cites ‘key policy reforms and the construction of essential infrastructure’ so that ‘from the father working in his shop to support his family, to the young college graduate building her first company, Palestinians working throughout the private sector will benefit from this plan.’
United States President Donald Trump and his son in law and advisor, Jared Kushner, insisted this scheme provides the key to the peace process for the deep rooted Israel-Palestine conflict.
But that could not be further from the truth. Not only is the proposal a total dismissal of the Palestinian political objectives such as sovereignty, statehood, refugees, illegal settlers and the punishing occupation, even the economic incentives that are being presented are not new and revolutionary ideas. Such conduct from the Trump administration illustrates the nature of their attitude towards the Palestinian cause – inattentiveness personified.
It is astonishing that a conflict as sensitive, longstanding and extensive as the Israel-Palestinian one can be treated with such disdain and negligence.
Ultimately, it emphasises what has long been conspicuous, that the Trump administration has no real desire to meet the demands of the Palestinians and cater to their needs. This was an attempt to woo the Palestinians with economic incentives and pressurise them into capitulating and accepting a disastrous proposal, but the plan backfired tremendously.