Opinion

Kushner’s Ship in the Desert

Jared Kushner
Evan Vucci/AP

What can Jared Kushner’s plan be compared to? A blueprint for a luxury yacht designed to sail on the desert sands. To treat the plan of Donald Trump’s son-in-law seriously we must be blessed with amnesia. Reality must be jettisoned from our consciousness for us to read such an exhausting text laden with empty promises and advertisers’ clichés.

What reality? One of total Israeli control of the space, land and what is under it, the water, the people, their marriages and lives, their freedom of movement, property, their hopes and freedom.

To speak, for example, about the “limited access of Palestinian farmers to land, water, and technology” without stating explicitly that it is Israel which limits them – this is laughing in the readers’ faces. So Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American social activist, business consultant and analyst of Israeli policies decided to answer Kushner with a sort of humorous fatigue.

“You did it. You produced 136 pages of nothing, in full color and with photos too,” he wrote in an open letter “from one American to another.” Bahour read the entire plan on the veranda of his home in El Bireh in the West Bank, “the one facing the illegal Israeli settlement of Psagot.” He examined where the settlement fits into Kushner’s plan. “I see it fits perfectly since you don’t even hint that it exists. I know, we Palestinians should not get bogged down with inconvenient facts on the ground.”

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Over the past 26 years, thousands of position papers and proposals for projects from Palestinian and international institutions have been issued, and all of them used the same words that adorn the piles of initiatives from the Trump dynasty’s factory: Empowerment, private sector, business environment, entrepreneurship, competitiveness of Palestinian exports, industrial zones, improve mobility, enhancing the educational system and bringing women into the workforce,

But the authors of those previous papers at least began from the critical starting point of acknowledging reality. They knew it was impossible to speak in fancy language about Palestinian economic development without demanding the removal of the Israeli prohibitions that shackle it. Even the reports of the World Bank noted that the Palestinian economy is losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year just because of Israel’s control over 60 percent of the West Bank (Area C). This is apparently the part that U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, like his friends in the settlements, said Israel had the right to retain.

So far, billions of dollars have been poured into the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the name of the lofty goals of the competitiveness of the private sector and a flourishing economy, the twin sisters of peace. In reality, what these same funds did over a quarter-century was to mitigate the economic disasters that Israel has caused and is causing to Palestinian society because of the continued theft of natural resources (water, rock and minerals, natural gas), prohibitions and limitations on movement and the creation of suffocating enclaves surrounded by violent, ever-growing settlements that gorge themselves on land and water.

Funds meant for development were turned into charity for the impoverished population that Israel prevents from fulfilling its economic and creative potential. The donor nations preferred to waste billions than to force Israel to restrain its settling appetite. This is how European and U.S. taxpayers subsidized the colonialist occupation enterprise. Now, after blocking its contributions, the United States plans for Arab countries to subsidize the Israeli occupation in its place.

The funds that were channeled toward salaries and projects enabled the PLO to create a bureaucratic-business layer that preserved the status quo (acceptance of geographic atomization and security coordination with Israel), instead of forming a new strategy against it. But because those who gave donations in the past did not erase the reality, the Palestinian leadership could continue to pretend that they are serving the goal of an independent Palestinian state.

Kushner’s ship in the desert does not even allow for this pretense – which is the one good thing about it.