President Donald Trump is taking part in an all-out attempt to batter the Palestinians into political surrender, and his weapon of choice is money. In full coordination with the Israeli government, he is overseeing a global campaign to ensure funds supporting Palestinians are drying up. Everything from Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem to health care and education for Palestinian refugees are on the receiving end of the cuts. In the bullseye of this attack is the Palestinian government.
So when CNN reported on Sunday that the Trump administration would be hosting an “economic workshop” in Bahrain to encourage capital investment in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region — the first part of the president’s so-called “Deal of the Century” — it sounded like more of the same.
The plan is said to address four major components: infrastructure, industry, empowering and investing in people, and governance reforms “to make the area as investible as possible.” While on paper all of this sounds fine and well, it may very well be the first step in the collapse of Trump’s peace plan.
The unforeseen silver lining is that the U.S. has lost any remaining influence it had on Palestinian society. As the U.S.-monopolized peace process was driven to total collapse, past U.S. administrations understood that keeping USAID funds operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip gave the U.S. some sort of financial clout, after losing any semblance of political credibility. Now that Trump has closed the USAID mission in Tel Aviv, which previously served the West Bank, Palestinians are free to think without a noose of U.S. funding around their necks.
The Trump administration is not letting up. With its newly-announced workshop, it seems the White House will be dangling billions of dollars to get the Palestinians to accept the plan.
Speaking last week at the Washington Institute about the administration’s upcoming Middle East peace plan, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, said, “I think we developed a good business plan.” As someone who formulates real business plans for a living, I understand that if one works according to misguided assumptions, even the best of business plans will fall flat on their faces.
Kushner seems to be missing the point entirely: Israel is addicted to Palestine’s economy, and without overcoming that addiction, there is no chance for any grand “business plan” to succeed. Moreover, his “in-depth operational document,” which he calls “realistic, executable…and will lead to both sides being much better off” is borderline hallucinatory, given the fact that it dismisses the need for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Israel’s determination to maintain full control of the Palestinian economy for over five decades has become a major hurdle in getting it to realize that its occupation must come to an end. And like recovery from other addictions, this one will require external support. That support needs to be based on third states holding Israel accountable to save it from itself, rather than building a “business plan” to try and paint life under the boot of Israeli military occupation as somehow beautiful.