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Opinion Palestinians want freedom, not Trump administration bribes

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington last week. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Mohammad Shtayyeh is prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.

The Trump administration on Saturday unveiled the economic portion of its long-awaited diplomatic plan for Palestine and Israel. The release preceded a two-day “economic workshop” in Bahrain beginning Tuesday that is intended to drum up regional support for the proposal.

Read this piece in Arabic.

Unfortunately, what has been revealed confirms our belief at the Palestinian Authority that the plan, which is being drafted by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and other Trump administration officials, is simply a repackaging of a stale, discredited concept known as “economic peace” long advocated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime friend of the Kushner family.

While short on specifics and totally lacking a political component, the plan calls for a $50 billion investment fund for the Palestinian economy and that of neighboring Arab states, and a $5 billion transportation corridor between the occupied West Bank and Gaza. What Kushner and his colleagues don’t seem to realize is that Palestinians don’t need or want handouts. We need freedom and our rights and for Israel to end its domination over our lives and economy.

Even before details of the plan were revealed, Palestinian political and business leaders were boycotting the Bahrain conference. That’s because since taking office, President Trump has almost completely sided with Israel’s right-wing government, offering us no reason to believe his administration can be taken seriously as an honest peace broker.

For the past two years, Trump and his senior advisers have waged war on Palestinian rights. Trump broke with more than 70 years of official U.S. policy, recognizing Jerusalem as part of Israel and moving the U.S. Embassy to the city. He has closed the de facto Palestinian embassy in Washington and cut almost all aid to the Palestinian people, including to the U.N. agency responsible for the well-being of Palestinian refugees. My efforts to effectively govern are not helped by the U.S. government depriving Palestinians of aid.

Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, this month even questioned whether Palestinians are ready for self-government.

Is it any wonder, given all this, that Palestinians are extremely skeptical of Kushner’s new economic plan? It is little more than a regurgitation of old ideas such as economic peace, advocated by the Israeli right, whereby Palestinians are expected to give up demands for freedom in exchange for investment and other economic inducements.

Although Kushner has denied it, the Bahrain conference and its rollout minus any political component are clear evidence that this is what is intended. What Kushner and the plan’s other authors don’t seem capable of grasping is that Palestinians cannot be bought off or bribed into accepting anything less than our full freedom and rights. The gilded cage that Kushner and Netanyahu have in mind for us is still a cage.

As Palestinians, our economic problems result from Israeli policies that are designed to restrict our economic growth. The restrictions on movement of people and goods, the difficulties in obtaining construction permits, the siege of Gaza — all constrict the Palestinian economy and leave it easily dominated and exploited by Israel. Even electricity is doled out to Palestinians at Israel’s choosing.

True and sustainable economic development cannot be achieved under occupation and while people are denied their right to self-determination. Economic peace has been tried and has failed. Under the George W. Bush administration, my predecessor as Palestinian Authority prime minister, Salam Fayyad, embarked on a program of economic reform and state-building that had many achievements, but ultimately it could not succeed because Israel would not allow it.

Economic conferences and incentives will not bring about long-term peace in the absence of a comprehensive political plan addressing, in a just and fair manner, all the core issues of the conflict and leading directly to Palestinian freedom.

It is clearer than ever that the Kushner plan will be designed to undermine and deny Palestinian rights and further entrench Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people. The plan won’t call for the creation of an independent Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution or for Israel to grant Palestinians their rights and equality in a single state. This is a Trump-Netanyahu blueprint for permanent apartheid, not peace.

Instead of attempting to bribe and bully Palestinians into submitting to permanent subjugation, the United States and the international community should be applying pressure to Israel, until it grants Palestinians their right to an independent sovereign state of Palestine.

Read more:

Max Boot: A Middle East peace plan only a developer could love

Daoud Kuttab: The Trump administration’s workshop for the Palestinian economy is set to be a dud

Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman: Help is at hand for Palestinians. It’s all up to Hamas.

William J. Burns: Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ for Arab-Israeli peace is doomed by delusions

Megan McArdle: ‘Deal of the century’ aside, what is the Israeli-Palestinian end game?