Peace workshop was a failure before it even started

Jared Kushner's workshop was doomed before it even started, writes Anshel Pfeffer


Even before Donald Trump’s special adviser Jared Kushner had spoken at the opening session of the “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” in Bahrain on Tuesday, the event, his brainchild, was being labelled a failure.

"Imagine a new reality in the Middle East. Imagine a bustling tourism and commercial centre in Gaza and the West Bank," Mr Kushner exhorted the participants from 39 countries. But the words sounded hollow in the absence of any official Palestinian or Israeli representatives there. The Palestinians were boycotting the event, over the lack of a political plan and still in protest of President Donald Trump’s decision a year and a half ago to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Israelis hadn’t been invited so as not to embarrass some of the Arab participants, still unwilling to “normalise” relations with Israel in public.

Instead, there were lectures from businesspeople who had never visited the West Bank or Gaza, or at the most had spent a few days there, and were obviously not acquainted with conditions on the ground. One panelist observed that from his visit “people there seem to like sports and music.”

It was just like the glossy “Peace to Prosperity” brochure that the White House presented on Saturday, which contained 179 proposals for infrastructure and business projects and investments of 50 billion dollars but not a word on the political conditions between Israel and the Palestinians and who to solve them. The Bahrain “workshop” hosted luminaries such as the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, three Arab finance ministers, the President of telecoms giant AT&T and even FIFA President Gianni Infantino but none of them addressed the elephant in the room.

Mr Kushner has promised in interviews recent days that his team has prepared a political section to the peace plan as well that will be presented “at a different time.” However, it remains unclear when that time will be and as the “workshop” in Bahrain ended on Wednesday afternoon with paeans to prosperity, no-one gave any indication on what the next stage will be.

Trump administration officials are already saying that it will probably be pointless to go ahead with the political part before Israel holds its next election on September 17 and a new government is formed, November at the earliest. Other Trump advisers are already hinting that since, by then, it will almost be election year in the U.S., the next stage of the Trump peace plan may have to wait until “the second term.” That is, if Donald Trump wins one.



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