Saudi-led initiative key to Palestinian peace process - GulfToday

Saudi-led initiative key to Palestinian peace process


A Palestinian demonstrator scuffles with an Israeli border policeman in Bethlehem, West Bank, on Tuesday. Reuters

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday reiterated that any peace deal should be based on the Saudi-led Arab peace initiative that has been the Arab consensus on the necessary elements for a deal since 2002. Riyadh voiced support for “international efforts aimed at improving prosperity, investment and economic growth in the region.”

Opening a two-day international meeting in Bahrain, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said prosperity for Palestinians was not possible without a fair political solution to the conflict. The United States launched a $50 billion economic formula for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

But he added that by working to develop the Palestinian economy, the result could be “a real peace that leads to prosperity.”

“We see tremendous potential,” he said. “What we have developed, is the most comprehensive economic plan ever created specifically for the Palestinians, and the broader Middle East.

“We can turn this region from a victim of past conflicts, into a model for commerce and advancement throughout the world.”

Kushner appeared to acknowledge such views, suggesting the politics of the conflict needed more time to address.

He said: “To be clear, economic growth and prosperity for the Palestinian people are not possible without an enduring and fair political solution to the conflict one that guarantees Israel’s security, and respects the dignity of the Palestinian people.

“However, today is not about the political issues. We will get to those at the right time.”

Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments are attending the curtain-raising event in Manama, which Lebanon and Iraq are staying away from.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and various Gulf states have sent finance officials to the workshop.

Earlier, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, it was important “to pursue peace efforts to realise the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.”

The White House says it did not invite Israeli representatives, so as to keep the event “apolitical.” The Palestinian Authority (PA), for its part, has rejected the plan and wants nothing to do with the conference, arguing that an economic proposal cannot pre-empt a political resolution that addresses its long-standing demand for statehood.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose PA exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was scathing about its prospects of success.

“Money is important. The economy is important. But politics are more important. The political solution is more important.”

Guterres was speaking at a pledging conference in New York for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees. He called on UN member states to fund the agency that works to help Palestinian refugees.

“Today, I humbly ask all donors to maintain their support for UNRWA at last year’s level,” said Guterres. “We know what is at risk: education for a half million children; 8 million health care visits a year; emergency relief for 1.5 million. In Gaza alone, one million Palestine refugees depend on UNRWA for food,” he said.

The Saudi-led Arab peace plan calls for a Palestinian state drawn along borders which predate Israel’s capture of territory in the 1967 Middle East war, as well as a capital in Arab East Jerusalem and refugees’ right of return - points rejected by Israel.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Kushner is “committed to the initiatives of Israel’s colonial settlement councils.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, said Israel was open to the plan. “We’ll hear the American proposition, hear it fairly and with openness,” he said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Palestinians burned effigies of Trump and marched a donkey pasted in the West Bank on Tuesday.

“Palestine is not for sale!” protesters chanted as they filled the streets of major West Bank cities.  

“We are not tempted by your millions!” the protesters chanted.


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