Palestine leaders reject US economic solutions - GulfToday

Palestine leaders reject US economic solutions

Palestinian-protest

Palestinians in Gaza City raise slogans during a protest against a US-sponsored Middle East economic conference in Bahrain on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Palestinian leaders accused the Trump administration of punishing them with one hand and offering to reward them with the other, as protesters turned out in the West Bank and Gaza on Wednesday to demonstrate against a US economic peace plan.

At a US-led conference in Bahrain US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner urged Palestinian leaders boycotting the event to think outside the “traditional box” and consider the $50 billion plan to boost the Palestinian and neighbouring economies.

But Palestinian officials said it was Trump who had inflicted further hardship on Palestinians, cutting hundreds of millions in aid to humanitarian organisations across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.

“If the US is so concerned about Palestinian well-being, then why did they carry out these punitive measures against us?,” senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Hanan Ashrawi said in Ramallah.

“Why did they target Palestinian infrastructure? Why did they stop scholarships to Palestinian students?” she asked.

A Palestinian official vent his anger by making a remark that his country is not for sale. Similar sentiments have been expressed by many other Palestinians as well.

In August last year, Washington announced an end to all US funding for the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees. The US was UNRWA’s biggest donor by far up to that point, giving it $364 million in 2017.

And in February, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) ceased all assistance to the Palestinians, to whom it provided $268 million in 2017.

The US cuts were widely seen as a way of putting pressure on the Palestinian leadership to re-engage with the White House, which it has boycotted since Trump recognised Occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017.

“The same team that cut 350 million dollars of aid to refugee camps... (goes) to Manama to say we have a brilliant plan to bring Palestinians a new chance, a new opportunity,” Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday in Jericho.

“Why would Palestinians say no to such (a) plan?” he added, mockingly.

Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments are attending the event at Manama’s luxury Four Seasons hotel.

“Capitalists do not think of the poor,” said Abdel-Rahim Nateel, 62, who spent most of his life in the Beach refugee camp in northern Gaza.

“Let them come and give aid to the hungry people, make projects, ask Israel not to attack us... let them give us our state on the 1967 borders and we do not want anything else from them.” Several thousand Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza on Wednesday, burning posters of Trump and his close ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “No to the conference of treason, no to the conference of shame,” read one banner.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, demonstrations against Bahrain were light for a second day. Some Palestinians voiced a sense of exhaustion about peace efforts and promises of cash and prosperity.

Yara Hawari, a policy analyst based in Ramallah, said the low turnout at protests was due to a sense of fatigue at international initiatives from which they saw little chance of changing their situation.

On Wednesday, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation issued a scathing statement condemning the plan and the Trump administration. It accused the administration of showing “willful blindness to the occupation” and a “deliberate refusal to deal with reality.” “The workshop attempts to circumvent the real issues by peddling in recycled and failed ideas. It wants to sell a mirage of economic prosperity for the Palestinian people so long as they accept and endorse their perpetual captivity,” it said.

Jared Kushner said on Wednesday that the door remained open to the Palestinians to engage in his peace initiative as he accused their leaders of not caring about their own people for rejecting his $50 billion economic framework.

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law launched a long-awaited Middle East initiative with an intimate two-day conference in Bahrain, where economic leaders touted his plan as holding the potential to jumpstart the Palestinians’ stagnant economy.

Agencies