As part of the White House’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan to boost Palestinian investment, a two-day workshop in Bahrain earlier this week has failed to promote co-operative peace talks in the region with Palestinian leadership boycotting the event.
According to a White House statement, the meeting was supposed to “facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people.” The meeting was headed by Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who outlined plans for an ‘economic first’ approach to Palestinian advancement. The content of this U.S.-led plan comes from the recent release of the White House’s “Peace to Prosperity” policy, which outlines a pathway to generate more than $50 billion in investments for Palestinian people, while creating jobs and reducing poverty in the process.
Although Kushner has marketed his idea as innovative, many similar initiatives in the past did little for regional co-operation. Ignoring past trends, Trump has called this plan the “deal of the century,” but the Palestinian leadership disagreed and barred people from attending. Hanan Ashrawi, an Executive Committee member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, argued that continued American influence will “undermine any future political initiative.” Other skeptics also feel that this meeting ignores the political element of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and serves as a purposeful distraction from ongoing U.S. appeasement of Israel’s military actions in the region.
Just days before the Bahrain meeting, U.S. national security advisor John Bolton and U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman were given a tour of the Jordan Valley, which lies in eastern West Bank. The fertile land is of great importance to many Palestinians, but they continue to be driven from the area as Israeli military presence increases. In a statement on Twitter, Friedman said that Israeli control in the area was important for regional security. This has since deepened concerns that the U.S. may recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and allow them to annex it.
It seems clear that the U.S. is not taking seriously the different dimensions required to initiate peace talks in the area. The Trump administration seeks Palestine’s trust but is not restraining Israel’s brutal advancements further into the West Bank. If the U.S. wants to actually advance the autonomy and security of the Palestinian community, they must first recognize that an ‘economic first’ approach is illogical and that hedging between both parties is not a substitute for promoting peace. Preventing the legitimization of military force and violence in the region is the most basic step forward.