While we were otherwise occupied, Young Prince Jared’s ‘Give Me Your Funding, I Speak MBA’
piece of the action Prosperity to Peace initiative has come and gone. All Very Serious Persons agree: It would be a cakewalk, if only there was a completely different set of Facts On the Ground!
The ever-hopeful NYTimes:
MANAMA, Bahrain — Judged on its own terms, the White House-led conference on improving the lives of Palestinians, staged this week in Bahrain as the first step toward a long-promised American peace plan, was a smashing success.
It proved that the Israel-Palestinian conflict “actually is a solvable problem, economically,” Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, declared proudly — though that proposition was never actually in doubt.
It put the conflict back near the top of the international agenda, at least for a day and a half. And it may have also created a powerful new constituency for a resolution, by bringing together billionaire fund managers and the heads of banks and multinational corporations like AT&T, who seemed to be grappling with the subject for the first time.
Investors expressed such excitement about someday pouring money into projects on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “it’s going to be like a hot I.P.O.”
But if the goal of the two-day conference was to persuade Palestinians to give the Trump administration’s approach to solving the conflict the benefit of the doubt, there were few signs of that.
For all the self-congratulation by Mr. Kushner, Mr. Mnuchin and their guests, the Palestinian Authority government, which deeply mistrusts the Trump administration, boycotted the event. Most Palestinian business leaders shunned it. Hamas, the militant organization that controls Gaza, was not even invited…
… [S]peaker after speaker in Manama — including ministers from several Arab countries of the Persian Gulf — made a point to argue that the Palestinians’ natural entrepreneurship, strong literacy and educational attainment levels could all be unleashed but for the poor “governance” and the absence of “transparency” and of the “rule of law” that they said afflict the West Bank and Gaza…
The ever-irreverent Bess Levin, at Vanity Fair:
Last week, Jared Kushner held his big Peace to Prosperity conference in Bahrain. And if we’re evaluating from a standpoint of actually helping to bring peace to the Middle East, i.e. the stated goal, things did not go well. For starters, Palestinian leadership boycotted the whole thing, saying that the notion of unveiling an economic plan prior to presenting a political one made no sense, as it did not address major points of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, such as control of the West Bank and Palestinian statehood. Kushner, who views this whole thing as just another real estate deal, reportedly gave a speech in which he “envisaged the impoverished Gaza Strip as a tourist destination, omitting mention of Israel and Egypt’s 12-year blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory, as well as Israel’s 52-year-long occupation of the West Bank, which restricts trade and labor movements.” When he did reference politics, it was to offer the sophisticated take that if “there’s not a fear of people doing terrorism”—emphasis ours—it’ll “allow for much faster flow of goods and people,” without offering, y’know, a proposal for how to stop terrorism in the region…
… On Wednesday [Kushner] held a conference call with Arab and Israeli reporters to announce that the White House would provide “new steps” next week regarding his big plan, and, in an apparent effort to convince Palestinian leaders to get on board, he really laid on the charm:
[Kushner] criticized the Palestinian leadership’s behavior around the Bahrain conference and called it “hysterical and stupid.” He stressed that Palestinian leadership has made “a strategic mistake” not participating in the conference and not discussing a plan that is focused on prosperity for the Palestinian people.
Then, trying a little one-man good-cop-bad-cop routine, Kushner insisted that Donald Trump likes Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and wants to work with him—provided Abbas pulls his head out of his ass. “The door is always open for the Palestinian leadership,” Kushner told reporters. “If they stop saying crazy things and engage, they will see there is an opportunity here. We respect President Abbas and we believe he wants to make peace, and we want to give him the opportunity to try and do it.” Answering a question from a Lebanese reporter, Kushner said the political portion of his peace plan would include “a pragmatic, fair, and workable solution to the refugees issue,” without providing any actual details…
Wall Street, we are told, likes predictability. And ya gotta give Kushner full credit — he’s very predictable.