Trump’s Underwhelming Deal for Palestine and the Gulf Monarchies’ Complicated Ties with Israel

Giorgio Cafiero gauges the shortcomings of the U.S.-backed “Peace to Prosperity” summit in Bahrain this week.

By Giorgio Cafiero
Special to Consortium News

The U.S.-backed two-day “Peace to Prosperity” summit in Bahrain on Tuesday and Wednesday was designed to advance the Trump administration’s vision for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But without any significant Palestinian representation at the summit, as well as the absence of any Israeli government officials, the gathering was ultimately little more than a face-saving effort on the White House’s part following two years of the administration’s “futile” peacemaking efforts.

The conference is understood to have laid the foundation for the “Deal of the Century.” The details have yet to be released, although the White House claims it will unveil the plan following Israel’s elections in September. Yet some details have leaked, leading the Palestinian Authority to declare it dead on arrival. Virtually all Palestinian factions are united in opposition to it.

Block 346, Manama, Bahrain. (Shahzad Ali, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Telling was the 40-page proposal put out earlier this month by the White House, which used the terms “investment” and “financing” dozens of times, yet never once mentioned “occupation.” Dan Kurtzer, who previously served as Washington’s ambassador to Israel and Egypt and is now a professor of Middle East policy studies at Princeton University, tweeted: “I would give this so-called plan a ‘C’ from an undergraduate student. The authors of the plan clearly understand nothing.”

The “workshop” in Bahrain began with President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner delivering a speech in which he unveiled a $50 billion economic package intended to “unleash” the Palestinians’ potential as well as help develop neighboring Lebanon and Jordan. Kushner referred to a “bustling tourist center in Gaza” without acknowledging Israel’s siege of the coastal strip and the dire humanitarian crises in the blockaded enclave. IMF Director Christine Lagarde spoke about applying lessons from Mozambique to Palestine. Steve Schwarzman, an American billionaire whose personal wealth exceeds Palestine’s annual GDP, advised the Palestinians to follow the model of Singapore. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, hailed the “workshop” as an “attempt to jumpstart the Palestinian economy” and “improve the quality of life of Palestinians.”

Kushner: Silent on humanitarian crisis in Gaza. (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

Unrealistic and Disingenuous

Undeniably, the White House’s plans for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are as unrealistic as they are disingenuous. With an ongoing conflict and no clearly defined borders, it is at best naïve to imagine the Occupied Palestinian Territories fostering a climate that is ripe for foreign investment. Building a tourism sector and stimulating vibrant economic growth under occupation are also unrealistic. Whereas Kushner sought to first discuss the economic dimensions of the Palestinians’ problems while saving meetings over the political ones for later, he fails to understand how Palestine’s economic crises are linked to politics. Put simply, the Palestinians will not be able to achieve economic development through some foreign-driven technocratic plan without finding a solution to the political issues at the heart of the conflict.

The Palestinian view is that the White House is simply trying to liquidate their cause by buying them off with foreign money. Moreover, no experts believe that the Trump administration has the political or diplomatic capital to serve as a credible mediator between the Palestinians and Israel. The White House has absolutely no goodwill among Palestinians, particularly in the aftermath of the administration formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and slashing funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

IMF’s Lagarde: Applying lessons from Mozambique to Palestine. (Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As the first U.S. administration to officially reject the two-state solution as the basis for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the current White House represents an opportunity for Israel to cement its colonization of territory in land annexed during 1967. As such, the “Deal of the Century” is about the consolidation of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and a way toward establishing a “second homeland” for Palestinians in Jordan and/or Egypt. The Israeli UN ambassador’s opinion piece in The New York Times, which called for a Palestinian “surrender” and was published just before the Bahrain summit kicked off, essentially summed up both the Israeli government and the Trump administration’s views on the Palestinian question.

GCC-Israel Ties

Nonetheless, although the summit did not raise important questions about Palestinian-Israeli relations, it raised some about Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member-states and Israel’s gradual normalization of ties. That this summit was held in Bahrain was not a major surprise considering that the archipelago kingdom has led the GCC in terms of moving toward normalization of relations with Israel.

Indeed, Bahrain’s openness to closer relations with the Jewish state was on display in September 2017 when Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa attended a multinational event in Los Angeles where two American rabbis stated that the king of Bahrain had voiced his opposition to the Arab League’s economic boycott of Israel. As the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop began, the Bahraini Crown Prince welcomed delegates with a message that called the Bahraini capital, Manama, the Gulf’s most religiously diverse city and referenced its tiny Jewish community. Notably, Bahrain’s former Jewish ambassador to Washington, Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, attended the summit.

Much like the dynamics which have brought other GCC member-states closer to Israel, a mutual perception of Iran as a threat is at the heart of Bahrain’s interest in establishing warmer ties with Tel Aviv. Yet for Bahrain and other Arabian Peninsula monarchies — until the Palestinian issue is resolved — prospects for moving toward a full normalization of relations will remain complicated.

National Assembly building of Kuwait, GCC’s only “semi-democracy.” (xiquinhosilva from Cacau, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Whereas Kuwait stands out as the only country in the GCC that principally rejects this trend of Gulf states moving in the direction of normalizing ties with Israel, it is the GCC’s only semi-democracy, thus this firm “pro-Palestinian” stance partially reflects pressures from Kuwaiti public opinion. For other states in the Arabian Peninsula that are far less democratic, especially the absolute monarchies, public opinion is less relevant to foreign policy decision-making but all statesmen in the Arab world are aware that appearing too close to Israel risks making them targets.

It appears that the Gulf states that participated in this “workshop” are keen to maintain their links to Israel, which are vibrant in the domains of private enterprise, yet maintain low profiles for political reasons. Also, at a time in which the Trump administration continues applying “maximum pressure” on Iran, officials in Manama, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh find themselves in the same boat as their Israeli counterparts in terms of backing the White House’s aggressive anti-Iranian agenda.

Unquestionably, this summit reinforced the message that most in the GCC remain interested in moving toward warmer relations with Israel and there is a genuine desire in the Gulf to see the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis come to an end. Yet as The Economist put it, this summit was “an underwhelming start to the ‘ultimate’ Israeli-Palestinian deal” which has no chance of being struck through American mediation so long as the U.S. is so one-sided in this conflict.

Giorgio Cafiero (@GiorgioCafiero) is the CEO of Gulf State Analytics (@GulfStateAnalyt), a Washington-based geopolitical risk consultancy.

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18 comments for “Trump’s Underwhelming Deal for Palestine and the Gulf Monarchies’ Complicated Ties with Israel

  1. Vera Gottlieb
    June 28, 2019 at 14:52

    “Peace to prosperity”…Whose prosperity? Certainly not Palestinians’. Will the West ever stop fleecing others? Is this what our Western “values” are all about?

  2. geeyp
    June 28, 2019 at 01:46

    I saw a small photograph of this event which had two people on a stage that participants were looking at: Jared Kushner and a fellow (I said it was small) that looked a lot like former UK Prime Minister Tony “W.” No mention of what he was doing there, in that article or this one (unless it’s in one of the links). Perhaps he is consulting Kushner and in turn, the audience. He gets paid very well for his “Expertise”.

    • geeyp
      June 28, 2019 at 01:49

      Once he destroyed Iraq and got away with it, other crooks want his luck to smear off on them.

  3. Taras77
    June 27, 2019 at 21:47

    To just stand back for a moment, it is indeed astonishing that kushner, who satisfies almost all definitions of a foreign agent, is allowed to roam around “fixing” things for his own financial rewards. It defies a common understanding of conflicts of interest in its audacity.
    And now transcripts of tillerson’s testimony to congress indicates that he and statedept staff were enraged at being kept in the dark with no resolution to their complaints.
    Kushner’s antics adds a new dimension to nepotism.

  4. Larry
    June 27, 2019 at 15:43

    The fascist orange monkey, also known as trump, was made president by god’s will. He was elected to make isreal great again and that’s trump’s g’d given purpose in life.

  5. Rong Cao
    June 27, 2019 at 13:53

    Isn’t GCC on the brink of the collapse a while ago when the US congress threatened to sue GCC for manipulate the oil prices? Guess now that the US has become a world major oil exporter, GCC has stood on its way. So the patriarchy inside GCC, namely Saudi Arabia, has been colluding with the US and Israel to pay $50 billion to Palestinians authority for the purchase of Israeli’s occupied lands once for all. Indeed a deal of the century for President Trump.

  6. rosemerry
    June 27, 2019 at 12:56

    PLEASE read the latest article by David Stockman in on the “threat” of Iran.
    No matter what they say, none of the disgusting representatives of the USA, Israel, the “democratic” gulf states could possibly believe that Iran is in any way a threat, except that Iran’s actions and words show what genuine international peaceful behavior might succeed in doing, a source of horror for the bullies.

    • geeyp
      June 29, 2019 at 23:20

      rosemerry – Speaking of I was saddened to hear of the passing away of Justin Raimondo. He was a good man.

  7. eddy
    June 27, 2019 at 09:12

    It dose’nt matter what the Israelis think, the US has killed / caused to be killed more Arabs in the last few years than all the jews in Palestine.

    • rosemerry
      June 27, 2019 at 12:49


  8. Sally Snyder
    June 27, 2019 at 08:18

    Here is an interesting look at John Bolton’s Three State Solution for the Middle East:

    For a man who did whatever he could to avoid fighting in a war, he certainly seems to love the concept.

  9. KiwiAntz
    June 27, 2019 at 04:28

    Can anyone explain the complete inappropriateness & Cronyism of Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner, in negotiating this sham of a Deal? This is the “Con of the Century” not the Deal of the Century? Jared Kushner never got out of Bibi’s Bed & his flawed Plan is a $50 Billion dollar loan bribe, a LOAN not a Hand out & where this money is coming from, as it’s not coming from America but supposedly from non-existent Arabian Financial sources is a mystery? And in order to receive this blood money, Palestinian’s only have to surrender what’s left of their Country & the illegal settlements, any chance of a 2 State solution & other humiliating concessions to Apartheid Israel, such as any Sovereignty claims to their own Lands? And I state it’s Palestinian’s Land,” THEIR COUNTRY” not the illegal, immoral Land Usurper called the Nation of Israel? This Land of Palestine, illegally occupied since 1948 by repatriated Jews from a devastated, War ravaged Europe, as a bloodguilt reward from the Allies, for their failure in preventing the Holocaust & genocide of the Jews during WW2?The idiotic English came up with the disastrous plan to repatriate these European Jewish people to a already occupied Land called Palestine? And for the record, the Historical Jews lost their claims to these Lands, as was prophesied in the Bible following their rejection & complicity in the Death of the Messiah? JC stated their “House (or Nation) would be abandoned to them” as a result of their rejection of him, being the Son of God! This was confirmed in the year 70 B.C.E when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, destroying all their records, the Temple & killing one million people with the survivors taken into captivity! The confirmation of the loss of Divine favour & Gods utter rejection of the Jewish Nation & people was that God allowed the Roman destruction to occur without any direct intervention on his part! That was the end of the Nation State of Ancient Israel! When this happened, it became inhabited by Arab Tribes & gradually became Palestine? This Modern Day interpretation of a Nation State of Israel is a monstrosity, a human construct not a Theocratic Nation created by God! This Plan is a utter waste of Time & other peoples money as Palestinian’s want a Political solution as mandated by the UN, not a blood money, loan bribe by Trumps crony Capitalist, son in law, in league with Uncle Bibi Netanyahu!

  10. Tiu
    June 27, 2019 at 04:26

    I just saw a pig fly past my window towing a banner that read “Deal of the Century!”.
    This “deal” isn’t about Palestine, it’s about Israel and Iran and money that has strings attached, in much the same way as a yoyo.

    • Tiu
      June 28, 2019 at 04:49

      Transcript of Kushner’s press conference…
      It’s a pity someone didn’t ask by what authority does a US President’s adviser stand there and make proposals? Is this official US policy, or some working groups pie-in-the-sky which the US government is not obliged to recognise?
      His answers sound weak and vague frequently punctuated by “but” and “look”.

  11. Zhu
    June 27, 2019 at 03:33

    I cannot pthink of any way in Singapore resembles the West Bank and Gaza. Singapore is a completely independent country, not iccupied by someone else. Half its is NOT filled with settlers from Indonesia or Malaysia or anywhere.

  12. Zhu
    June 27, 2019 at 03:27

    If there’s any rational goal to this nonsense, it would be to wi Religious Right support for Trump in the upcimimg ekection. But ge already gas that.

  13. Moi
    June 27, 2019 at 02:40

    An investor would have to be an utter idiot to put funds into Palestinian infrastructure because the Israelis would promptly destroy it in their next military incursion. Investment without rock solid perpetual peace is just money down the drain.

    • mark
      June 27, 2019 at 21:49

      The EU built a shiny new airport in Gaza. The Chosen Folk promptly occupied and trashed it, defecating all over the place, which is their usual calling card. They routinely do the same in private homes in Gaza and Lebanon.

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