Kushner tries to sell US Mideast plan

Palestinians say the US' economic plan denies their rights and won't bring peace to the Middle East.
Palestinians say the US' economic plan denies their rights and won't bring peace to the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has appealed to Palestinians to consider a $50 billion economic support plan, even though it does not include a political resolution to the long-running conflict with the Israelis.

Mr. Kushner, speaking at a conference in Bahrain, defended the proposal as the foundation of any eventual peace plan.

Meanwhile, Palestinians protested against the plan in the streets of the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere.

"We don't need money. We are not hungry for bread," said one of the protesters, Gaza physician Said Jadba, "We are hungry for dignity."

The president's son-in-law sought to defend his plan to combine private investment and support from regional governments to transform economically devastated Palestinian communities.

"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," Kushner said.

The conference did not include either a Palestinian or an Israeli delegation.

The Palestinians have rejected the proposal - which aims to create a million new jobs, slash unemployment and improve living standards in the West Bank, Gaza and across the Middle East over 10 years - 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 those issues may not be released for several months.

Mr.Kushner acknowledged that a political solution is key to the success of the economic proposal but said it was more important to first set out what is economically possible.

President Trump boiled it down to simple terms: "We have to get economic support because the Palestinians don't have money, and we have to help the Palestinians with some money," he told reporters at the White House.

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 on Tuesday to protest the meeting, with demonstrators in the West Bank burning effigies of Trump and featuring a donkey pasted over with images of Gulf royals.

The plan has also been harshly criticised by former diplomats, aid workers and others for being unrealistic and lacking any clear description of who will pay for it.

The Palestinians cut ties with the White House after the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017 and say they will not accept a peace proposal from an administration they see as biased toward Israel.

Bahrain has been criticised for hosting the conference. It has defended its decision by saying its only objective is to support the "brotherly Palestinian people."

Australian Associated Press