Kerry Promotes $4 Billion Investment Plan to Boost the Palestinian Economy

In search of the leverage to reopen the deadlocked Israel-Palestinian peace process, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived over the weekend at the lowest point on earth

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Khalil Mazraawi / AFP / Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the opening session of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa on May 26, 2013, at the King Hussein bin Talal Convention Center on the Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea

In search of the leverage to reopen the deadlocked Israel-Palestinian peace process, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived over the weekend at the lowest point on earth. The World Economic Forum, the Swiss-based organization that regularly gathers together political and business leaders, had convened a regional meeting at the Dead Sea (elevation: –1,401 ft.), and among the titans of industry who flock to the prestigious WEF gatherings, the American diplomat found enthusiastic allies in the effort to coax a resumption in negotiations that began more than two decades ago and have been stalled for at least five years.

“Now I know the credibility of anything called the peace process is at a very low ebb,” Kerry said on Sunday, at the close of the two-day forum. “Believe me, I understand that.” The point has come home to him in four trips to the Middle East in the past four months, shuttling between an Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has historically been less than eager to negotiate a final peace deal, and a Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who has for six years governed only the Palestinians who live in the West Bank (Gaza, the other Palestinian-run territory, came under the control of Hamas, the militant Islamist group, after winning a battle with Abbas’s Fatah faction in 2007).

But if politicians remain in their corners, business leaders are stepping up — both to pressure elected leaders to re-engage in talks and to help invigorate a West Bank economy currently overwhelmingly dependent on foreign aid, perhaps in hopes of buying time for the political process.

(MORE: Influential Palestinians Say It’s Time for a One-State Solution)

A group of 300 Israeli and Palestinian business leaders announced a “Breaking the impasse” public-relations campaign intended to assure reluctant political leaders that a constituency exists for taking risks for peace. “We want to provide the politicians with the feeling that the biggest part of Israel is supporting negotiations,” said Yossi Vardi, an Israeli businessman who made a fortune in hi-tech. “The biggest risk is we begin to treat the conflict like a chronic disease, that it’s something that cannot be solved.”

Vardi was joined on the podium by Munib al-Masri, a West Bank tycoon whose published net worth is $1.6 billion. “From 1999 til now we haven’t moved,” al-Masri said. “We want to move.”

Kerry added American business leaders to the mix. Without naming names or venturing into detail, the diplomat described the broad outlines of an economic project that he said has been taking shape over the past six weeks on the West Bank, “a groundbreaking plan for the Palestinian economy” that he called “bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything since Oslo 20 years ago.” The reference was to the treaty named for the Norwegian capital where it was negotiated in secret between Israeli and Palestinian diplomats. The Oslo Accords were intended to lead within five years to an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, the Palestinian Authority that was intended to rule as a transitional body still administers most of the Palestinian parts of the West Bank, a Hamas government runs Gaza, and Israeli troops continue to occupy the West Bank and control the perimeter of Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

(PHOTOS: Secretary of State John Kerry’s First Overseas Trip)

Kerry called the economic plan “more transformative than incremental, and different than anything we have tried before.” Kerry said the hope is “to mobilize $4 billion of investment” in the West Bank, in tourism, construction, light manufacturing, building materials and information technology, among other fields. “The preliminary results,” he said, “are stunning.” Without elaborating on the makeup of the expert “teams” he said were assembling the plans, Kerry said they estimate the GDP of the West Bank could be increased by 50% in three years and unemployment cut by two-thirds. Tourism could triple, he said, and construction could add 100,000 jobs.

“I am happy to say that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas support this initiative,” Kerry said — an important point, in that Israel’s military controls construction and building on most of the West Bank. Said Kerry: “There’s just no doubt that investment in business and investment in peace can turn all this around.”

How that will happen is not altogether clear. In past negotiations, Israelis and Palestinians remained a significant distance from agreement on fundamental issues, including the future of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the claims of Palestinian refugees to return to Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. Kerry’s speech strained to establish a causal link between economic development and political progress, but in the general bonhomie of a WEF gathering, the idea seemed to be that finding some point of agreement might lead to more.

“Standing here with you at the lowest point on earth, “ Kerry said, “I believe we can reach for the heights.”

VIDEO: John Kerry Bids Farewell to the Senate After 28 Years

24 comments
benyaminshaker
benyaminshaker

dont help the arabs, deport them to like jordan 

azmalhome
azmalhome

Quran 5:51 O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrong doing people.

Quran 2: 120 “never will the Jews and the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion. Say, "Indeed, the guidance of Allah is the [only] guidance." If you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you would have against Allah no protector or helper.”

http://azmalhome.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/islamic-terrorism/

benbona75
benbona75

Where are their oil rich Arab/Muslim counterparts and friends when financial aid is suggested?

abdalsalam
abdalsalam

I  believe strongly that John Kerry has found the key to solving the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict by introducing his great plan  on economic plan .It becomes evidant that Kerry is bold enough to provide such a plan which has no precedent in the region ...Therefore ,I 'm quite sure that his plan will  reap fruits for the benifit of the two sides.This plans will definitly eleminate terrorism,hatered,discrimination and occupation.

please, come on with your plan without any delay ....

Abdalsalam

West-Bank

ProductoEndorsair
ProductoEndorsair

Israel, Palestine, terrorism, balance of power....what does it cost the US to keep juggling these balls? If we spend more in Palestine on making friends and eliminating hopelessness, will we come out ahead?

arvay
arvay

“I am happy to say that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas support this initiative,” Kerry said — an important point, in that Israel’s military controls construction and building on most of the West Bank. Said Kerry: “There’s just no doubt that investment in business and investment in peace can turn all this around.”

 A nice big bribe for Abbas to keep the phony "peace process" going. 

Billions stolen from he American taxpayer to keep Israel going. 

Watch for Israel to steal a lot of this money.

bojimbo26
bojimbo26

Quangos - free food and drink , forget the poor .

DrorBenAmi
DrorBenAmi

what the usa should do if they really wanted peace, which i seriously doubt, is to take the 4 billion and build either the "red dead canal" or the "med dead canal".....this would produce electricity, free up fresh water which now comes from the jordan river, increase fertilizer exports, and serve to reduce rising sea levels (a little bit).

obviously, it is in the interest of the usa and britain to keep the fires burning in israel and the middle east, this is why kerry ignores the 6 million dead in the congo ....he doesn't really care about the lives of anyone....


GuyDallas
GuyDallas

By  the way this Senator throws away money he must think we're all married to a ketchup heiress.

GuyDallas
GuyDallas

Earlier today I saw a video of an 10 yr. old girl being taught by Hamaas to fire a  uzi type weapon. So as an American citizen WHY IN GOD"S NAME would I want my government to throw away money on these terrorist peoples.

billc72069
billc72069

who will pay the four billion ! ? NOT uncle sam !

and if PLO gets the money, it must be audited 

for honest transparency.

Urbane_Gorilla
Urbane_Gorilla

Hey! Simple...take the $3.8 Billion we give to Israel every year and give it to the Palestinians instead! The GOP would like that 'balanced budget' approach for sure!

Spytech
Spytech

What about our American economy?..... Jagbag. These bureaucrats don't have a problem at all, spending our tax dollars everywhere but here. They tax us to the gills, then steel it and give it to their banking cronies abroad. Makes me sick...... For example, 680,000 vets still waiting for medical assistance or help with living assistance. Job's for the yearly college grads,   The list goes on and on. Why don't they just keep their noses out of everyone else's business, and concentrate on our issues here at home...PERIOD

garyk
garyk

Why do that?  Look what Arafat did with the money we sent him.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Grrrr.. I agree,  Stop wasting hard earned tax dollars, build our own bridges and economy first.  Frustrating when they treat billions of dollars as chum change.

gp72908
gp72908

I have to agree is is a lose lose deal at this point ,you never know what is going to happen over there ans there is most probable chance the money will be misused and or literally stolen for other reasons.

onetruepipe
onetruepipe

How about spending this money to help AMERICANS you freaking bums!  Stop sending our resources to 3rd world cesspools that HATE US - nothing except waste and ignorance in DC. 

NancySmith
NancySmith

wtf,  goddammit, another fkkkn politician spewing our hard earned tax money on those less than contrite sobs who are determined to kill to the very end.    let them sort it out, & we deal with the end winner  (or bomb them into oblivion as needed)   but to suggest, in the context of the local usa economies, to distribute even a fraction of our taxes is the height of arrogance. 

benyaminshaker
benyaminshaker

that will completely solve the issue, the settlers will fill the gaza strip and west bank

arvay
arvay

@azmalhome  

Yea verily, I say unto thee, that all these religions are  fecal nonsense, and should be utterly wiped away so that the people can think cleanly, and the leaders either liquidated or made to work for a living. The three "Abrahamic" religions being the worst, each one has the only truth and wants to eliminate the others and then subjugate unbelievers. They are a curse and a burden to humanity,  a blot on human intelligence and need to be eradicated like other plagues and diseases.

jz
jz

@billc72069 

I think we should take the 4 billion plus we give Israel each year and invest it in Palestine. Israel deserves no more money from the u.s. They are a parasite eating at our budget every year. Israel does well on their own, they don't need our money.

ArmandWinter
ArmandWinter

@billc72069 Why do you care? Arafat's fat English widow got away with $4 BILLION from his private Swiss bank account... how do you know Romney hasn't done the same for his old Boston Consulting co worker Netanyahu. And what about the C-5's full of cash sent by Bush to Iraq? And we're still sending money to Karzai... the only reason we have troops on the ground in Afghanistan is to make sure he gets the money.

And while we're on the subject, how does Mitt Romney get away with laundering BILLIONS of unreported income through a bank in the Caymans owned by his Church, Amegy Bank of Houston owned by Zions Bancorp.

Do you think an audit would do anything about this?