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Josh Owens

Josh Owens

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Josh majored in International Relations at the University of Edinburgh and is currently the Content Director at Oilprice.com. Josh has over 6 years of writing…

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Can $50 Billion Bring Peace To The Middle East?

Peace

Next week, White  House adviser Jared Kushner will host a peace plan conference in Bahrain that plans to invest $50 billion in economic development to patch over the eternal Arab-Israeli crisis. The only problem is a big one: No one important will show up.  It’s a nice idea that seems logical enough: Economic development to create a million jobs in the West Bank and Gaza would, according to Kushner “reduce their poverty rate” over ten years and “double their GDP”. 

Aptly named “Peace to Prosperity”, the Middle East peace plan should, in theory, work. After all, economics is the opiate of many a society. Jobs and prosperity are what keep people off the streets and quell protests more thoroughly than any security forces could. When people are comfortable and well-fed, they tend to think that politics is a phenomenon that happens to other people. 

What Kushner’s peace plan ignores, however, is that the Middle East runs--and always has run--on a different set of parameters entirely. Even though the economic situation is as dire as it can be, economics is not likely the path to peace. Nor is politics, for that matter, despite what Palestinian leaders will say. This is a philosophical problem to the core, and politics is merely the little things that buzz around the philosophy. 

As Kushner notes in a statement: “For too long the Palestinian people have been trapped in inefficient frameworks of the past. The Peace to Prosperity plan is a framework for a brighter, more prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region and a vision of what is possible if there is peace.”

This goes far beyond “inefficient framework”. It’s a philosophy, which remains a mystery to everyone to this day, and cannot be articulated by Palestinians or Israelis in a way that the Western mind can comprehend, is as old as humankind itself. One might even argue that it is the very precise balance point upon which the Earth’s axis spins.

The baseline of the philosophy that no one can articulate is that only Israelis or Palestinians can exist in peace, there is no room for both, and economics is not a big enough distraction. 

No Takers

That Kushner has failed to understand--as has everyone before him--the philosophy of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the eternal nature of it, can be forgiven. Sort of. 

The plan itself includes 179 business and infrastructure projects that would, in a different setting, make mouths water. 

What the plan does not include is any idea of Palestinian statehood or an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. This is the “political” aspect that renders the plan dead on arrival. 

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Instead of proposing what would admittedly be a failed solution to end land disputes between the two, Kushner’s approach is something that Quartz notes resembles a glossy real estate brochure dedicated to: “Unleashing economic potential, empowering the Palestinian people, and enhancing Palestinian governance.”

Israel is not mentioned, as if the very balance of the world has changed.  

That massive collection of projects will be presented this week in Bahrain. But the audience will inevitably be small. It won’t contain the key decision-makers. 

In the end, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are interested in what Kushner has called “the opportunity of the century”. 

Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem in 2017 also ignored the underlying philosophy here, and rendered Kuchner’s peace plan untenable. Palestinians were never expected to show up in Bahrain. At least, no one other than Kuchner expected them to. 

Palestinian billionaire Munib al Masri told the Wasington Post: “Our problem is a political one, not an economic one. We have dignity, we have leadership, and they don’t want to go because they believe America is not an honest broker.”

Masri described going to Bahrain as “like going to the wedding and the bride and groom aren’t there”. 

Likewise, Palestinian Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi told the Post: “The issue is not the fact that the Palestinians will need investments or support. The issue is that we are not in charge of our own land, our own resources, our own boundaries, our own airspace, our own territorial waters, our own freedom of movement or anything.”

Israeli officials also will not take part in the conference, presumably viewing it as a waste of time--a non-starter. 

The plan will also fail because it’s simply throwing out a number--$50 billion--with no plan for raising that sum. 

Instead, Kushner is hoping to get support from regional players first, and then to figure out how to actually fund it. 

Not only does the plan fail philosophically, but at the end of the day, no one is showing up in Bahrain because it is a bit of a paper tiger. It’s not a $50-billion plan. It’s a plea for $50 billion.   

By Josh Owens for conil.me

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