A breakdown of the Peace to Prosperity economic plan for Palestinians, Israel concludes large military drill to counter Hezbollah and the weekly update from the Gaza border where clashes continue along with fires ignited by incendiary balloons.
White House Proposes $50 Billion Palestinian Plan
Last Saturday the Trump administration released an economic proposal that promises $50 billion in investment and infrastructure development for Palestinians along with other financial incentives as part of its Middle East peace plan.
Even before this release, Palestinian leadership publicly decried the Trump administration’s plan. This economic portion, being discussed during a conference in Bahrain this week, was unsurprisingly unequivocally rejected by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Despite no cooperation from the Palestinian leadership, U.S. officials continue pushing this plan with other leaders in the Arab world.
Titled “Peace to Prosperity,” the ten-year plan outlines goals to double Palestinian gross domestic product, create a million jobs, reduce unemployment rates to single digits, and drop Palestinian poverty under 50 percent. The $50 billion is to be allocated between the West Bank and Gaza ($27.5 billion) and Palestinians in Egypt ($9.1 billion), Jordan ($7.4 billion), and Lebanon ($6.3 billion).
Included in those broad goals is a commitment to ensure affordable electricity to the West Bank and Gaza, double the potable water supply, and develop high-speed data services for Palestinians.
Though this document hardly touches on any political complexities of implementation, it is clear where some issues might arise regarding the plan to open “the West Bank and Gaza to regional and global markets” and “support steps to improve Palestinian cooperation with Egypt, Israel, and Jordan.”
The first major hurdle in implementing this plan is gaining the cooperation of the key players: Israel and Palestinians. Netanyahu has said that he will consider the proposal but hasn’t committed to it, and in its current state of political turmoil, any statement from the current administration could be null after September’s election.
Gulf Arab states with close U.S. ties, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are advising Palestinian consideration of the plan despite widespread rejection in much of Arab society.
Even with the cooperation of Israelis and Palestinians on the economic goals, the plan does not include tangible sources of funding for the $50 billion. A “master fund” would administer that money, but details are scant on who controls and funds the master fund.
Jared Kushner, the Trump administration’s architect of the plan, told Reuters that they hope Gulf states and nations in Europe and Asia, along with private investors, would cover much of the funding.
“The whole notion here is that we want people to agree on the plan and then we’ll have a discussion with people to see who is interested in potentially doing what,” Kushner told Reuters Television.
The political proposition for the “deal of the century” is yet to come, but it will have to address some significant issues not yet addressed. The Palestinians, for example, are not a monolithic society. Investment in the West Bank and Gaza are lumped together even though the two regions are controlled by rival Palestinian factions: Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, the plan makes no mention of the statehood issue, a piece that Palestinian Authority leadership has made clear is critical to begin thinking about coming to the table.
Kushner told Reuters he hopes that after the conference in Bahrain, Arab leaders in attendance will support the plan enough to pressure Abbas to reconsider and “go to the table and negotiate and try to make a deal to better the lives of the Palestinian people.”
Massive IDF Drill Simulates Hezbollah War
All branches of Israel’s defense forces were involved in the largest military drill in years that simulated a war with Lebanese-based Iranian proxy Hezbollah.
Despite the heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Israel said the four-day drill was planned long in advance as a preparation against threats from the north. The Associated Press reports that the operation “included a large deployment of unmanned aircraft and the first use of the F-35 stealth fighter planes to prepare for scenarios of missile attacks and underground infiltrations from Lebanon.”
Israel has long been preparing for the next conflict with Hezbollah, most recently destroying several sophisticated tunnels from Lebanon to Israel that would allow fighters to enter Israel undetected. Additionally, Israel now openly admits their aggressive airstrike campaign against Iranian proxy targets in Syria to prevent encroachment on the border.
Despite Israel’s unusual silence on the spiking tensions between Iran and the U.S. over the tanker attacks and the subsequent downing of a U.S. drone, it is clear that the Israeli military is preparing for a northern front against Hezbollah.
“We caution Hezbollah not to subordinate Lebanon to Iran’s agenda, and we caution Lebanon not to be used as a launching pad for attacks against Israel,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. “We are not happy to go to war, but the military is fully prepared to respond to any threat and any scenario.”
Weekly Gaza Border Update
Around 6,000 Palestinians protested and rioted at the Gaza border this week, throwing rocks and explosives as they clashed with Israeli forces guarding the border.
Thirty-nine people were injured during the protests, including a Palestinian paramedic, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The Jerusalem Post reports that three explosive devices were thrown over the fence into Israeli territory, and one person attempted to climb over the fence.
On Sunday, incendiary devices launched from Gaza ignited fires in southern Israel. Four fires raged in the Eshkol region, one in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council and one in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, according to the Jerusalem Post.
In other Gaza news, Israel is planning to build a new sewage pipeline to divert waste from Gaza into Israel’s waste management system. The sewage treatment plant in Gaza is not operable, resulting in raw sewage being dumped straight into rivers and the sea, which threatens to contaminate sources of fresh water and seawater being pulled into Israel desalination plants. Ynet reports that the cost of the pipeline will likely be deducted from money transferred by Israel to the Palestinian Authority.