Empowering Palestinians means delivering on promises

Experts discuss different aspects of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner’s proposed plans for economic uplift of Palestinians. (BNA)
Updated 27 June 2019

Empowering Palestinians means delivering on promises

  • Unemployment is at 30 percent in the West Bank and 50 percent in the Gaza Strip
  • Kushner’s plan proposes investments of nearly $30 billion in the occupied Palestinian territories, and $20 billion in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan

MANAMA: Jared Kushner’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan, unveiled this week at a conference in Bahrain, sets ambitious goals, including doubling Palestine’s gross domestic product and reducing its high unemployment rate to under 10 percent.

Unemployment is at 30 percent in the West Bank and 50 percent in the Gaza Strip, according to Christine Lagarde, managing director and chairman of the International Monetary Fund, who spoke at the conference.

Kushner’s plan proposes investments of nearly $30 billion in the occupied Palestinian territories, and $20 billion in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. 

But money alone will not be enough if people are not given opportunities to work and develop their own entrepreneurial skills, business leaders warned during a panel discussion entitled “Empowering the People.”

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas moderated the panel, which featured four distinguished business leaders: Osama Al-Absi, CEO of the Bahrain Labor Market Regulatory Authority; Amadou Diallo, DHL’s CEO for the Middle East and Africa; Shiv Khemka, vice chairman of SUN Group Global; and Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Abbas praised Kushner’s “impressive and detailed” plan, but said “the political will must be there” for it to succeed.

Khemka said India has overcome similar challenges that Palestine faces, and “if the challenges can be overcome in India, they can be overcome anywhere.”

He added: “In India, we have 1.3 billion people, so we need to create 1.3 million jobs per month for the next 30 years. We have extreme poverty and wealth. We have all kinds of conflicts and all kinds of issues. If you start off with the assumption that the political will is there, then I think there’s no reason at all why this plan can’t succeed.”

Moreno said based on his visit to the West Bank, he believes that “the political will is present and can be nurtured” among Palestinians.

“A plan like this is only as good as the people who are willing to implement it,” he added. “The more important thing, in any case, is the political will to get behind something where people will eventually really build the potential for developing their own country.”

FASTFACTS

• Unemployment in West Best is at 30 percent and 50 percent in the Gaza Strip.

• Jared Kushner’s plan proposes investments of nearly $30 billion in the occupied Palestinian territories.

• The plan also seeks investments worth $20 billion in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

Al-Absi, who helped reduce Bahrain’s unemployment rate from 17 percent to about 4 percent over 11 years, cautioned that the worst thing to do is to raise expectations and then not follow through.

“A pessimist is what an optimist calls a realist, and I’m a realist. It’s doable, but you have to approach this with a lot of practicality,” he said, describing Kushner’s plan as “very ambitious.”

Al-Absi added: “You’re going to come up with … a peace plan and an economic plan. You’re going to raise their (Palestinians’) expectations. You have to prepare them, otherwise, this can all go south.”

Diallo said: “How you create opportunity is by having leadership that has aspirations to change the way people live in their own communities.”

He added: “That has to be done locally because it can’t be done from outside. The people have to fight for that. I’ve seen that happen in Asia, in Pakistan, but also here in the region.”

He said: “How do you open up opportunities so people can fly in and out easily? How do you open up opportunities so goods can move in and out easily? You create entrepreneurs who have opportunities that are beyond their village and their city and are competing with everyone else, competing in the global world. That’s what I call inclusion.”


Russian forces deploy at Syrian border under new accord

Updated 41 min 19 sec ago

Russian forces deploy at Syrian border under new accord

  • Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement Tuesday that would transform the map of northeast Syria, installing their forces along the border
  • The Kurdish fighters were given a deadline of next Tuesday evening to pull back from border areas they have not already left

AKCAKALE, Turkey: Russian military police began patrols on part of the Syrian border Wednesday, quickly moving to implement an accord with Turkey that divvies up control of northeastern Syria. The Kremlin told Kurdish fighters to pull back from the entire frontier or else face being “steamrolled” by Turkish forces.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed those warnings, saying his military would resume its offensive against Kurdish fighters if the new arrangements are not carried out.
Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement Tuesday that would transform the map of northeast Syria, installing their forces along the border and filling the void left by the abrupt withdrawal of American troops. The Kurdish fighters, who once relied on the US forces as protection from Turkey, were given a deadline of next Tuesday evening to pull back from border areas they have not already left.
Iraq, meanwhile, closed the door on the US military’s attempt to keep the troops leaving Syria on its soil. Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari told The Associated Press that those troops were only “transiting” Iraq and would leave within four weeks, heading either to Kuwait, Qatar or the United States.
Al-Shammari spoke after meeting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who earlier this week had said the American forces from Syria would remain in Iraq to fight Daesh. Iraqi’s military quickly said they did not have permission to do so.
The clumsy reversal underscored the blow to US influence on the ground in the wake of President Donald Trump’s order for US troops to leave Syria. Those forces were allied to the Kurdish-led fighters for five years in the long and bloody campaign that brought down Daesh in Syria.
Now a significant swath of the territory they captured is being handed over to US rivals, and the Kurds have been stung at being abandoned by their allies to face the Turkish invasion launched on Oct. 9.
The Kremlin pointedly referred to that abandonment as it told the Kurds to abide by the Russian-Turkish accord.
“The United States was the closest ally of the Kurds during the last few years, and in the end the US ditched the Kurds and effectively betrayed them,” leaving them to fight the Turks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian newswires.
“It’s quite obvious that if the Kurdish units don’t withdraw with their weapons then Syrian border guards and Russian military police will have to step back. And the remaining Kurdish units will be steamrolled by the Turkish army,” he said.
Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters terrorists because of their links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey. It has demanded they retreat from the entire border region, creating a “safe zone” where Turkey could also settle some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil.
Ankara would gain that goal under the new accord with Moscow along with the agreement last week with the US that put a cease-fire in place.
Kurdish forces completed withdrawing on Tuesday from a stretch of territory 120 kilometers (75 miles) wide along the border and 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep between the towns of Ras Al-Ayn and Tal Abyad. That pullback, allowing Turkish-backed forces to take over, was required under the US-Turkish accord.
The new agreement with Russia allows Turkey to keep sole control over that area. For the rest of the northeastern border, Russian and Syrian government forces will move in to ensure the Kurdish fighters leave. Then after the deadline runs out Tuesday, Turkish and Russian forces will jointly patrol a strip 10-kilometers (6 miles) deep along the border.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a convoy of military police had crossed the Euphrates River and deployed in the Syrian border town of Kobani.
“The military police will help protect the population, maintain order, patrol the designated areas and assist in the withdrawal of Kurdish units and their weapons 30 kilometers away from the border,” it said.
The Turkish military said it would not resume its offensive “at this stage” after the US-brokered cease-fire expired Tuesday night. However, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu said that Turkish forces would “neutralize” any Syrian Kurdish fighters they come across in areas that Turkey now controls.
President Erdogan said the attack would start again if the Kurdish pullback does not take place.
“Whether its our agreement with the United States or with Russia, if the promises given are not carried out, there will be no change concerning the steps we need to take,” he told journalists, according to the newspaper Hurriyet.
Erdogan said he had also asked Putin what would happen if the Syrian Kurdish fighters donned Syrian army uniforms and remained in the border area. Putin responded by saying that he would not let that happen, Erdogan said.
Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said the deal with Russia would continue until a lasting political solution for Syria is reached. He also said that Turkey agreed not to conduct joint patrols in the city of Qamishli at the eastern end of the border, because of Russian concerns they could lead to a confrontation between Turkish troops and Syrian government forces in the area.