99 times out of a 100, any time there’s a new program or initiative being introduced by the United States government that has any significant price tag, I instantly balk. The only way we could afford to spend an extra dollar is if Congress cancels spending two dollars somewhere else. Even then, it would take a while to get the budget deficit turned around from its current untenable apex of a trillion dollars this year.
That one time out of a hundred must be something special, and peace in the Middle East is worth the consideration.
White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner’s peace plan has been broken down into two parts: the economic and the political sides. We won’t see the political side until the fall, and that’s IF he and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can get buy-in on the economic front next week from several Middle Eastern nations, the EU, UN, and the IMF.
The White House released an outline for their “Peace to Prosperity” plan, a 95-page document that lays out the financial framework that will act as a starting point for Kushner’s presentation next week. Attendees will hammer out more details, and we can expect big changes. This is a populist and very western framework that includes many concepts unfamiliar in the Middle East other than in Israel, including online freedom, attracting outside technological assistance, and judicial independence.
It is intended to appeal to the people who can pressure hardline Palestinian leaders to take a look.
So far, reception has been negative from those on the Palestinian side who bothered to read it. It’s being called “ostensibly offering a carrot before the stick” since it’s being unveiled before the all-important political component is released.
Complaints notwithstanding, this is the right approach and Mnuchin is the right person to start negotiations. Unlike Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who will almost certainly present the political component when it’s released, Mnuchin has to sell the idea on its economic merits. If there’s one thing the Trump administration can demonstrably claim, it’s their prowess with getting an economy jumpstarted, as has been happening in the United States since he took office. This is why Mnuchin is the key at this stage. He’s a numbers guy who can make sense of the economic component to demonstrate why they believe it will double the GDP in the region in a decade.
But if this is a prelude to a full-blown two-state solution, it could be a non-starter either way. There aren’t many ways to split up land the size of New Jersey without putting Israel at greater risk than it already is. If the land given to the Palestinians is too small, such as giving them control of the Gaza Strip through promises of ejecting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, plus small areas on the West Bank, their side will object. If it’s too large, Israel will object. Finding the balance is a seemingly impossible task, which is why the $50 billion number must be made enticing enough to warrant discussions of the political angle.
It seems today that finding an agreeable peace plan is impossible, but it’s worth the effort. Hopes may be low, but there have been stranger things that have happened for Israel in the last seven decades. Maybe this is another miracle in the making.
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