Kushner’s Peace to Prosperity plan met with guarded enthusiasm

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Dubai-based Emaar Properties, talks to an Israeli radio journalist at the Peace to Prosperity conference in Manama. (Reuters)
Updated 26 June 2019
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Kushner’s Peace to Prosperity plan met with guarded enthusiasm

  • Palestine is very important for all Arabs, says Alabbar, UAE property magnate

MANAMA: Business leaders from the US and the Middle East reacted with guarded enthusiasm to the Peace to Prosperity plan presented by White House special adviser Jared Kushner to an audience of global decision-makers in Bahrain’s capital Manama.

Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of the big investment business Blackstone Group, said the plan “could happen in the right circumstances. We all have to have a dream, and this is a very sensible dream.”

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of the UAE property and leisure group Emaar, said Palestine is very important for all Arabs.

“The issue is very close to our hearts. Everyone of us is Palestinian at heart, and I feel I represent them here tonight,” he said in reference to the absence of Palestinian Authority delegates at the event.

Earlier, the audience of business leaders and policymakers from around the world listened attentively as Kushner unveiled details of the $50 billion plan to revive the Palestinian and regional economy.

He is hoping to attract investment from Middle Eastern and other governments, as well as private enterprise from around the world, for the proposals, which are designed to revive the Palestinian economy, create 1 million jobs and cut the poverty rate in the occupied territories.

HIGHLIGHT

The audience of business leaders and policymakers from around the world listened attentively as Kushner unveiled details of the $50 billion plan to revive the Palestinian and regional economy.

About $27 billion of the total is earmarked for Palestine, and only 20 percent of that will be straight equity.

“That’s only $5.5 billion, and it’s not that much money. It’s a good-sized proposal you’d expect to be financing at the World Bank,” Schwarzman said.

“This type of transformation is financially doable. It’s a question of whether there’s the political will.”

Alabbar said he had been a big investor in the region around Palestine for 12 years, and in some ways it was easier to do business in the Middle East than in North America, where getting planning permission for big developments could take as long as seven years.

He pointed to Emaar’s successful developments in Serbia as an example of “a war-torn region that has come good.”

Schwarzman gave examples from his firm’s investments in Uganda and Poland as the kind of transformational investments Palestine needs.

Both men were asked what effect Kushner’s proposals would have shown in two years’ time. “I think we’d all be overjoyed if this situation was normalized,” Schwarzman replied. Alabbar said: “I think the velocity of the change could surprise us all positively.”


Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

Egyptian Christians stand outside St. Markos Church in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt, in this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 23 July 2019
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Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

  • Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students

CAIRO: The Egyptian Orthodox Church has issued a statement condemning the theft of the body of the Patriarch Gerges, son of priest Ibrahim Al-Basit, from his family’s burial place in the Minya governorate.
Last Saturday, the cemetery was opened and Al-Basit’s body was stolen. The crime of stealing the bodies of the dead has recently spread across Egypt, especially while the sanctity of the body remains preserved. It is also common for the remains to be collected two years after the burial.
Last October, a gang was arrested after stealing bodies from their graves. An investigation has revealed that the main defendant sold the bodies to medical students for practical learning.
Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students.
The investigation found that the defendant had put a price on various limbs. The leg and the arm were priced at 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($180), the skull cost 5,000 pounds and the whole body was worth 20,000 pounds.
Ashraf Farahat, a legal expert and lawyer, said that Egyptian law demands up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 100-500 pounds for criminals who violate the sanctity of graves.
Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a legal expert and lawyer, said he knew of many cases where cemetery guards and assistants help people access graves for superstitious reasons in exchange for large sums of money.
The majority of these cases are happening with the help of the guards of the tombs. They exhume graves at night to extract the bodies and separate the organs to sell bones and skulls. They often sell them to drug dealers by grinding and mixing some materials for sale at high prices.