White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said Wednesday the Palestinians can still help refine a U.S. Middle East peace plan they have rejected because the economic proposal ignored their political aspirations for statehood.

During a news conference at the end of an economic workshop in Manama, Bahrain, aimed at jump-starting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Kushner said it was “important to bring out the economic vision before the political vision” because people need to see what the future can look like.

Kushner said his team would disclose the plan’s secret political details “when we’re ready” and added, “We’ll see what happens.”

The multibillion-dollar “Peace to Prosperity” proposal to boost Palestinian and neighboring Arab states’ economy is part of a Middle East peace plan heralded by U.S. President Donald Trump as the “Deal of the Century,” and spearheaded by Kushner, his son-in-law.

Head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, third from left, and Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar protest the conference in Bahrain, which focuses on the White House’s plan for Mideast peace, in Gaza City, June 26, 2019.

The plan, presented on the White House website over the weekend, is billed as “the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date.”

Under the initiative, donor nations and investors are invited to contribute about $50 billion to the region, with $28 billion going to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. About $7.5 billion will go to Jordan, $9 billion to Egypt and $6 billion to Lebanon.

The proposed funding would mainly be from Persian Gulf countries through grants and private equity sources. Kushner would not confirm whether the U.S. will provide any funding, saying only that Trump would “be interested in looking at opportunities” but only “if there is a deal.”

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials attended the Manama conference. 

Reaction to plan

Palestinians have rejected the plan, as it does not address Palestinian statehood, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of refugees. They insist that economic development cannot happen without a political settlement.

“We’ll hear the American proposition, hear it fairly and with openness,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that Palestinian rejection of the plan is “not the way to proceed.”

Kushner decided on a new approach to the peace process after previous U.S. administrations tried and failed to resolve the thorniest issues of the conflict: borders, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements and the status of Jerusalem. 

The Trump administration believes economic prosperity will benefit the entire region and curb extremism, but the Palestinians say they cannot be bought and that their homeland is not for sale. 

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