Kushner's vision: Neither peace nor prosperity
by Chris Doyle
This article first appeared in 7D News, 24 June 2019
The moment has arrived. Far away from the reality on the ground, physically and philosophically, Jared Kushner has revealed his long-awaited so-called plan, entitled “Peace to Prosperity.”
Where does one start? The vision as described on the website and the longer document, bears all the hallmarks of a massively expensive glossy proposal put together by a junior account executive at a third-rate public relations firm that the big boss had not even bothered to check. Even the sound bites do not bite. The photos are largely borrowed, as are the ideas, a hotchpotch of erstwhile discarded plans and projects from previously failed efforts.
On the ground in Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem; in the refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, life will continue in an alternate universe to Kushner’s fictional utopia. This Palestinian cause does not have a cure dependent on billions of dollars. It is about security freedom, rights and dignity. None of which feature in the Kushner brochure.
The big elephant, perhaps a huge mammoth given its fictional status, trampling across the pages of the Kushner ‘plan’ is the 52-year-old Israeli occupation. Pick any area of the occupied territories, and this harsh physical reality shreds the hollow consultancy speak of Kushner’s economic ideas. His document pronounces that the “West Bank and Gaza have fallen into a protracted crisis” as if this was a natural disaster not the fruits of an enduring and cruel occupation. Israel has zero responsibilities in these proposals, it might as well be located 5,000 miles away.
Kushner’s first tenet is “unleashing economic potential.” Some day, the West Bank and Gaza Strip will apparently be like Dubai and Singapore. Well he is right to point out there is potential. Palestinian businessmen have shown that time and time again. Kushner speaks of “the goal of reducing regulatory barriers to the movement of Palestinian goods and people.” Did he miss the checkpoints, walls, earth mounds and other barriers to movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip? All that potential is deliberately shackled under the architecture of an occupation that denies freedom of movement, cages two million people inside Gaza, and intrudes on each and every part of Palestinian life. Put simply, give Palestinians control of their borders, their land and its resources and the Palestinian economy would flourish. Maintain the occupation, and no amount of aid will suffice.
His second tenet is empowering the Palestinian people. This would be truly revolutionary and something Benjamin Netanyahu would shoot down in flames, if only it was true. If you ask a Palestinian what empowerment for them might mean, it would no doubt include freedom, end of occupation and self-determination. For Kushner, empowerment projects are about enhancing education, strengthening workforce development, investing in healthcare and improving quality of life. The latter is about recreational activities and a Palestinian cultural museum not for example connecting homes to freshwater networks or removing the illegal settlements on their land.
The final tenet is enhancing Palestinian governance. Palestinians have sought this and are frequently frustrated with the performance of the Palestinian Authority (PA). But yet again, the PA is little more than a body with quasi-municipal powers. Palestinians can, if allowed, sort out their own governance, whilst also making a few critical comments about the current state of American governance.
Somewhere Jared Kushner seems to believe a magic money tree will endow all of this with $50 billion over ten years. What he does not get is that even if there was $500 billion, it would be marginal to resolving the conflict. Palestinians crave their rights being recognised and will not be bribed into giving them up.
The so-called plan also lacks credibility on another front. Kushner envisages investing heavily in Palestinian healthcare, less than a year after the US cut all funding to six Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem. It even contains photographs of Parents Circle-Families Forum, which the White House recently cut funding for. It talks about “applicable Palestinian authorities” yet the US has closed the PLO office in Washington and not even consulted Palestinians on their ideas. It makes the line that “no vision for the Palestinians can be realised without the full support of the Palestinian people and their leadership” seem particularly hollow and vacuous.
Perhaps the most striking element is that these documents could just about be applied to any developing nation on earth. It wants to improve the economy, education and healthcare, ambitions applicable to a host of poorer nations. At no point do these glossy blueprints ever truly grapple with the realities of a country under occupation and conflict.
Kushner claims that “Everyone cares about the Palestinian cause. We care about the Palestinian cause.” When he leaves aside the sales patter and bothers to talk to Palestinians, he might get some idea what this means because so far, he seems to have not a clue.