Bahrain Day 2: Kushner Says Palestinians Have No Reason Not to Trust Trump

Kushner says Palestinians 'don't have a great track record of getting a deal done. I'll keep doing it the way that we want to do it' ■ Head of IMF: Israel must ease movement restrictions

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
Manama, Bahrain
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White House senior adviser Jared Kushner gives a speech at the opening of the 'Peace to Prosperity' conference in Manama, Bahrain, June 25, 2019.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner gives a speech at the opening of the 'Peace to Prosperity' conference in Manama, Bahrain, June 25, 2019. Credit: Reuters
Noa Landau
Noa Landau
Manama, Bahrain

MANAMA — The second day of the Trump administration's Peace to Prosperity economic conference took place on Wednesday with international diplomats, officials and business people in attendance.

The summit, which discussed the economic chapter of Washington's Middle East peace plan led by U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, didn't include official representatives of Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinians boycotted the conference and protested the fact that it was taking place without a diplomatic solution in tow.

Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrive at Manama's Four Seasons hotel, in Manama, Bahrain, June 25, 2019. Credit: REUTERS/Matt Spetalnick

>> Read more: Trump's Bahrain conference - not what you imaginedKushner's deal holds some surprises, but it's more vision than blueprint | Analysis ■ The billion-dollar question in Trump's peace plan

Six Israeli journalists, including one from Haaretz, were allowed to attend the conference, despite the lack of diplomatic ties between Israel and Bahrain.

6:50 P.M. Palestinians reject economic solutions from "punitive" Trump administration

"If the U.S. is so concerned about Palestinian well-being, then why did they carry out these punitive measures against us?," senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi said in Ramallah. "Why did they target Palestinian infrastructure? Why did they stop scholarships to Palestinian students?" she asked, referring to Trump administration's slashing of over half a billion dollars in aid to Palestinians through UNRWA and USAID.

In the Gaza Strip, where over half of the enclave's two million people live in poverty, Palestinians protested the conference and criticized the Arab businessmen who attended for siding with the United States and Israel. "Capitalists do not think of the poor," said Abdel-Rahim Nateel, 62. "Let them come and give aid to the hungry people, make projects, ask Israel not to attack us... let them give us our state on the 1967 borders and we do not want anything else from them."

6:00 P.M. Peace to Prosperity economic conference closes

5:00 P.M. Head of IMF: Palestinian economic improvement needs Israel to ease movement restrictions

The Four Seasons hotel in Manama, Bahrain, where the Peace To Prosperity workshop will take place, June 24, 2019Credit: Noa Landau

"Improving economic conditions and attracting lasting investment to the region depends ultimately on being able to reach a peace agreement," said head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde after the conference. "Peace, political stability, and re-establishment of trust between all the parties involved are essential pre-requisites to the success of any economic plan for the region," she said, adding that Israel must ease movement restriction and that there needs to be an economic reform in the Palestinian Authority.

Lagarde said the IMF was ready to work with all parties on policies to maximize the benefits of new investment in the region. She told a panel discussion that growth in the West Bank and Gaza must be focused on jobs.

The IMF expects the Palestinian economy to contract by 1.6% this year and says unemployment stands at 30% in the West Bank and 50% in Gaza.

4:50 P.M. Kushner says Palestinian leaders have no reason not to trust Trump

Jared Kushner told reporters that the conference shows "this actually is a solvable problem economically," that he will refine ideas gathered at the conference and will have announcements soon. He said that based on his conversations with people at the conference, the $50 billion goal is "doable."

Addressing the political component of the plan, Kushner said it will be announced when the U.S. administration is ready, and that there will only be a peace deal when both sides are ready to say yes, while acknowledging that both sides may never say yes.

Asked what would happen if the Palestinian Authority rejects the plan's political component, Kushner answered: "They don't have a great track record of getting a deal done. I'll keep doing it the way that we want to do it."

He added that Palestinian leaders have no reason not to trust Trump, and that his administration has laid out a framework to improve their people's lives.

4:00 P.M. Concluding panel of finance ministers gathers

A panel of finance ministers from the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain gathered at the summit Wednesday afternoon. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the concluding panel that the White House's Israel-Palestinian peace plan should not be only American but rather international, and that is "the next step." (Noa Landau)

2:30 P.M. Bahrain's foreign minister says he believes in two-state solution

Speaking to Israeli journalists at the Manama confernce, Bahrain's foreign minister Kahlid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said that he would like to convey a message "to everyone": The conference is "an opportunity not to be missed," he told Kan.

"If Camp David and the late President Anwar Sadat were game changers for the events of that day, I think that if we take this seriously this could be a very important game changer."

Asked whether he believed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be resolved, he answered: "We need to see a two-state solution. As Israelis have a country in their region and the citizens enjoy their own citizenship in their country, we need to see a Palestinian country with Palestinians enjoying their own citizenship."

12:23 P.M. Former White House communications director and American entrepreneur Anthony Scaramucci attends Bahrain economic summit.

11:50 A.M. "U.S. diplomacy festival won't put out Israel's fires," opines Zvi Bar'el: "Trump thinks he invented the wheel, and it’s called the 'Bahrain workshop,' so don’t tell him innumerable agreements have already been signed with the Palestinians."

9:55 A.M. The sultanate of Oman announces it will open an embassy in the West Bank, in the city of Ramallah. The ministry says the decision comes "in continuation of the sultanate's support for the Palestinian people."

9:40 A.M. A group of Jewish participants attending the Bahrain economic conference gather to pray at a small shul in Manama. Among those in attendance was Trump's Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt.

8:15 A.M. "In Bahrain, air of Israeli-Arab normalization and a message to Iran," writes Noa Landau: "Israeli and Arab businessmen openly mingled at the non-alcoholic cocktail parties, while some Palestinians defied the boycott."

Tuesday, 8:00 P.M. Emirati businessman Mohammed Alabbar says Gaza can be opened through a port or through Egypt.

"Once you open Gaza up, you release pressure from the West Bank while building infrastructures. You can still work between these territories."

7:50 P.M. Alabbar says the Middle East is a region of hope and that "Palestinian people are our people. We get up every morning positive, and we want to do more."

7:40 P.M. Touching on the fact the Palestinians have chosen to boycott the conference, businessman Stephen Schwarzman says he views the Bahrain economic workshop as something an economic planner would look at and say ‘this could happen’ under the right circumstances.

"Everyone needs a dream. And this is a very sensible type of dream. One would hope the beneficiaries of the dream might have been there," he said.

7:45 P.M. Schwarzman: "it’s been 72 years of complexity in this region and things don’t change overnight. But to make change you need to have a vision."

7:36 P.M. Panel entitled "The Time is Now: Building a Coalition for Middle East Prosperity” begins, featuring Mohammed Alabbar and Stephen Schwarzman.

7:33 P.M. Kushner: “Today is not about political issues. The goal of this workshop is to begin thinking about these challenges in a new way. To work together to develop a concrete plan to try to achieve it. Imagine a new reality in the Middle East ... Imagine a bustling tourist center in Gaza and the West Bank. Imagine people and goods flowing securely throughout the region as people become more prosperous. This is not a stretch, it is the historic legacy of the Middle East."

“Peace can only be achieved if it comes for a pathway for people to improve thir lives. Pursuing opportunity instead of blaming others for their current misfortune," Kushner said.

"Palestinians have intelligence, perseverence, strength in great supply … My direct message: despite what those who let you down in the past tell you, the president and Americans have not given up on you.”

7:16 P.M. “For too long the Palestinian people have been trapped in a framework for the past,” Kushner says. “This is a framework for a brighter future. It is a vision of what is possible with peace.”

7:14 P.M. Jared Kushner begins his opening speech.

Live at Bahrain conferenceCredit: Noa Landau

6:45 P.M. At the conference, Emirati businessman Mohammed Alabbar, founder of one of the largest real estate development companies in the world tells Haaretz: " I think we all live on a very small plant called Earth and we have a duty to the families, we have a duty to society we live in, we have duty to our neighbors and to the world … No matter how these small these steps are we should something. And we as businessmen have a duty to our society, not only to make money and try to avoid taxes, but I really think we should do something good for the people."

5:51 P.M. Gaza's health ministry says 12 people have wounded, three of them from live fire and the others by rubber bullets, during protests against the summit.

5:19 P.M. At least 10 Palestinian businessmen are at the summit, telling Haaretz they are from "all over" the West Bank. Businessman Ashraf Jabari is the only Palestinian scheduled to speak at the summit, and it was not previously known whether additional Palestinians would attend despite a Palestinian Authority boycott of the conference.

5:01 P.M. "It won’t bring peace, but the Bahrain conference is still important," says Anshel Pfeffer: "Just by taking place, Jared Kushner’s conference has moved the needle against the Palestinians and in the direction of Netanyahu’s vision for the Middle East."

1:54 P.M. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that the Bahrain workshop was "stillborn," adding that there could be "no peace without the Arab Peace Initiative and the Security Council resolutions." (Jack Khoury)

1:28 P.M. The Jewish-Arab political party Hadash will demonstrate on Tuesday evening in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, to protest what it calls "the attempts to trample the Palestinian right to independence under the guise of 'economic development.'" (Jack Khoury)

10:22 A.M. With billions pledged for development in the West Bank and Gaza, Amira Hass points to past infusions of money that have only "mitigated the economic disasters that Israel has caused and is causing to Palestinian society." She does, however, find a ray of light in Kushner's plan.

9:52 A.M. As preparations for the conference are underway, an unprecedented trilateral summit is taking place in Jerusalem with the participation of American, Russian and Israeli national security advisers. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said at the start of the summit that U.S. President Donald Trump "has held the door open to real negotiations" with Iran on its nuclear program. "All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door," he said.

8:10 A.M. "The Bahrain debacle marks the crash of the Trump team’s campaign to diss Palestinians into submission," argues Chemi Shalev: "Kushner’s Peace for Prosperity includes Utopian projects funded by non-existent money as part of peace deal that won’t happen."

5:30 A.M. "Landing at the airport in the Bahraini capital, you can’t miss the American Peace to Prosperity conference taking place in the tiny kingdom," writes Noa Landau. She adds, however, that the calm and festive atmosphere in the Bahraini capital is overshadowed by both the protest in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the ongoing tensions between Iran and the U.S. in the Gulf.

11:00 P.M. Trump's 'Peace to Prosperity’ vision offers $50 billion fund for investments in Palestinian economy. How does the administration think it will get the money? Amir Tibon with the billion-dollar question in Trump’s peace plan

The schedule for the conference is as follows:

Tuesday, June 25

7:00 P.M. Opening speech by Jared Kushner, followed by panel: "The Time is Now: Building a Coalition for Middle East Prosperity”

Wednesday, June 26

9:00 A.M. Panel: Unleashing Economic Potential

9:55 A.M. Roundtable: Conversation- Strategic Sectors for Growth

11:00 A.M. Roundtable: Conversation-the Power of Sport and Entertainment

11:25 A.M. Panel: Empowering the People

12:05 P.M. 1:1 Conversation-Healthcare Systems of the Future

12:20 P.M. Panel: Strengthening the Workforce through Women's Empowerment

2:05 P.M. Panel: "New Foundations for Growth"

2:40: P.M. Panel: "1:1 Conversation- Developing a Thriving local business environment." Businessman and chairman of the Palestinian Business Network, Ashraf Jabari, will speak.

3:00-3:15 P.M. Roundtable entitled "Next Steps: The Path Towards Achieving Prosperity" with the participation of Jared Kushner and the United Kingdom's former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

3:15-4:00 P.M. Panel entitled "Economic Transformation: A Conversation with ministers of finance

4:30-6:00 P.M. Closing receptions

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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