Trump Admin Kicks Off Plan to Foster Israeli-Palestinian Peace

First step of plan will aim to boost Palestinian, Middle East economy

Steve Mnuchin, Donald Trump, Jared Kushner
Steve Mnuchin, Donald Trump, and Jared Kushner (Getty Images)
May 19, 2019

The Trump administration has started to implement its multi-faceted plan to foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a process that will begin in June when Bahrain hosts a forum to promote economic development in key Palestinian territories, according to senior administration officials.

The Trump administration's long rumored peace plan is just beginning to spill into public view, with senior officials organizing a June 25 business forum in Bahrain that will bring together a range of political and business officials in the region to develop methods to spur growth in the Palestinian economy.

The economic aspect is just one piece of the plan, officials said, explaining that a political component includes specific details on what peace would look like. Officials were mum on Sunday about specifics regarding that portion of the peace plan.

The forum, dubbed "Peace to Prosperity," will bring together top business leaders with their political counterparts and include workshop sessions with Trump administration officials in which they will present a roadmap to help bolster the perpetually ailing Palestinian economy. The goal, U.S. officials say, is to reform the Palestinian economy so that it can support itself as a functioning state.

"The people who have seen the product we put together so far think it's very thoughtful," a senior administration official, speaking only on background, told reporters Sunday afternoon.

The economic portion of the administration's plan, which is being spearheaded by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, has been "met with very, very good feedback," the senior official said. "Everyone liked it and asked that we come present it in the region."

A subsequent statement issued by the White House said that the forum would seek to promote investment and stability in the region. U.S. officials see this as key to getting both the Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table to they can hash out specific details of future statehood.

"'Peace to Prosperity' will facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region, including enhancements to economic governance, development of human capital, and facilitation of rapid private-sector growth," the White House said. "If implemented, this vision has the potential to radically transform lives and put the region on a path toward a brighter future."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is playing a key role in the financial aspect of the plan, said the forum would provide an opportunity for leaders across the region to comment on the Trump administration's plan and provide advice.

"I look forward to these important discussions about a vision that will offer Palestinians exciting new opportunities to realize their full potential," Mnuchin said. "This workshop will engage leaders from across the entire Middle East to promote economic growth and opportunity for the people in this important region."

The "workshop underscores the close strategic partnership between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United States as well as the strong and shared interest in creating thriving economic opportunities that benefit the region," Bahrain Minister of Finance and National Economy Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa said in a statement included by the White House.

U.S. officials, while briefing reporters, declined to provide any specific details about the political portion of the plan, but said this will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

"We're looking not to make this about no discussion of the political" aspect of the plan at this time, the senior administration official said. "You really can't have peace without economic stability. … We do see these two things as going hand in hand."

Administration officials described the plan as "very extensive and detailed," telling reporters that the economic and political portions of the plan will be presented in different forums because it is easier to digest in two different settings.

"This will give the people in the region [a view of] what the potential opportunity can be if we are able to make progress on some of the core political issues that have held the region back for a very long time," the senior official said.

The plan has been in the works for the last eight to nine months, officials disclosed, explaining that they reviewed decades of information about the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

"This has a really comprehensive approach on how to do things that will allow the Palestinian people and the countries around them to really get to a place of self sufficiency," the official said.

The economic plan will focus mainly on infrastructure projects, efforts to boost competition, education, and investments in communities. The United States has secured grant money, low interest loans, and some capital to hold spur these projects.

"People are very impressed," the senior administration official said. "It's a plan that makes sense."