Kushner on Middle East Plan: 'We View Our Job as to Try'

Hopes to reduce Palestinian poverty rate by half

Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner / Getty Images
June 22, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke to Reuters Television exclusively in advance of the release of a U.S. economic plan for the Palestinian economy and surrounding countries to be unveiled at a workshop in Bahrain next week.

The following are highlights from the interview.

"The plan would invest about $50 billion in the region. It would create a million jobs in the West Bank and Gaza. It would take their unemployment rate from about 30 percent to the single digits. It would reduce their poverty rate by half, if it's implemented correctly. It's a ten-year plan. It would double their GDP. We've had it peer-reviewed now by about a dozen economists in a dozen countries and we're very excited to put it forward and share it now with a lot of leading business leaders, a lot of leading investing institutions, and then also the public."

"I have to say that this is one of the hardest problems that exists in the world. This conflict has been going on for a very, very long time and there's been a lot of attempts at it which have all been very well-intended and noble attempts to try and solve it. When we got involved, we looked at all these attempts and we tried to study why they didn't work and there's a lot of good things that were done. We tried to take the good things they did and then come up with a new approach to try to bring this forward. We thought that the economics was a very important part."

"I find that in the real world, the way you solve problems is by really going into the details, putting forward proposals, agreeing, disagreeing on certain things - that's very healthy, that's how you resolve a conflict. Remember, nobody agrees up until right before they do so. It's not unexpected for people to posture and to criticize things but what we're hoping to do is create a framework where we can change the discussion and get people to look at these problems differently and more granularly and hopefully in a way that can lead to some breakthroughs."

"People are tired of the way that this has been stuck in the mud for so long and what we're hoping we can do is get people to look at this a little bit differently, come together, share ideas, and then hopefully we can create a framework on which to move forward economically. But I will say that you can't push the economic plan forward without resolving the political issues as well. We're fully aware of that and we intend to address that at a later time."

"There'll be praise from some places, there'll be criticism from some places, hopefully it will be constructive. I always prefer having people share what they're for as opposed to what they're against and if people have constructive criticism, we'll welcome it and we'll try and make modifications but the hope is that we can bring all of the different people together from Europe, from Asia, from the Middle East, and agree on this would be a good path forward if we're able to resolve the political issues."

"I would say that the political side and the economic side are two very robust efforts and to digest both of them at one time would be very, very hard so it was necessary to break them up, so the question is - which one do you put first? Our thought was that it was better to put the economic plan first. It's less controversial. Let's let people study it, give feedback. Let's try to finalize if we can all agree on what that could look like in the event of a peace agreement."

"We view our job as to try. It's very easy to find reasons why this could fail - we think about that all the time - but our job is to try to be more optimistic and to come up with situations that could maybe change the paradigm and I hope that by seeing this plan that we've spent a lot of time working on for a better economic future for the Palestinian people and for the region, people will start to look at this problem through a slightly different lens and maybe that leads to some badly needed breakthroughs."

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)