Commentary. Hundreds of economic plans have been proposed during the 52 years of Israeli occupation, but this latest one is supposed to be the ‘greatest,’ worth no less than $50 billion. But read the fine print.

The Bahrain summit: how to buy a nation

It was announced with bombastic headlines: the Peace Plan, the Deal of the Century. It was touted as an economic agreement featuring an extraordinary program to change the whole region, with the participation of all the major countries involved, and a workshop featuring finance ministers representing more than 30 states. Yet, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis have been officially invited. Representing Israel were six or seven journalists and a few businessmen (including a recently retired general). Similarly, there were around 15 Palestinians. 

In Bahrain, everyone was closely watching the Iran situation. The economic sanctions were supposed to lead to an actual agreement to avoid the development of Tehran’s nuclear weapons project, which was in fact abandoned after the nuclear deal that Trump keeps calling “terrible” because, in his mind, it is synonymous with Barack Obama. 

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was calling for even more sanctions, while proudly presiding over a meeting of the national security directors of Israel, the US and Russia. While the uber-hawk John Bolton enthusiastically endorsed the bellicose rhetoric of the Israeli Prime Minister, the Russian representative, Nikolai Patrushev, had a very different take: he said that “Iran remains our ally and partner” and the intention to present Iran as “the main threat” to security in the region was unacceptable. 

In this context, the controversial businessman who is now president of the United States has sent his controversial son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to present the grand economic plan in the context of the supposed “peace” negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a plan that the Americans are touting as a sort of Marshall Plan for the Middle East.

The economic situation in the Palestinian territories is a disaster to which the Americans and Israelis have actively contributed. Tel Aviv has frozen the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian National Authority’s bank account because the latter was giving aid money to the families of “terrorists.” The amounts involved are equivalent to hundreds of thousands of dollars, which are essential for the public sector and the economy of the West Bank. 

In Gaza, the confrontation with Hamas perpetuates an ongoing siege and an economic situation always on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip—and also in the West Bank, albeit with different effects—is part of a condition of enforced misery that condemns people to the constant danger of famine and disaster. This “game” has a clear goal: to consolidate the internal divisions of the Palestinian people, ensuring the annexation of the West Bank (in whole or in part) in exchange for the “independence” of Gaza, with its 363 square kilometers and two million inhabitants. As if this wasn’t enough, the US president has compounded the hardship by reducing economic aid from Washington and pressuring the UN’s support for Palestinian refugees.

Hundreds of economic plans have been proposed during the 52 years of Israeli occupation, but this latest one is supposed to be the “greatest,” worth no less than $50 billion. But read the fine print: the money would be available over a period of 10 years, and only $28 billion would go to the occupied territories, the rest being reserved for projects in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and other countries in the region.

Some of the provisions of the plan do sound promising: particularly those lifting restrictions on the movement of people and goods, water and energy. For now, the borders and the water and energy resources are entirely controlled by Israel, subjecting Palestinians to continual expropriation of their land and water, to the control of all their energy sources and to all manner of obstacles at their borders. 

The plan is supposed to allocate $5 billion for a connecting corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, a provision of the 1993 Oslo Accords, but so far blocked by Israeli governments. Five billion dollars sounds great—but where will it come from? Under the plan, $11 billion would be guaranteed by Washington, $11 billion by private investors, and the rest borne by the international community. In Hebrew and Yiddish, there is an expression which seems perfectly apt to describe such a plan: “luft gesheften,” literally meaning “airy affairs.”

The Bahrain summit still hadn’t ended when the excuse-making started, particularly regarding the odd fact that the plans were being drawn up without talking to either the Palestinians or the Israelis, who were not invited. Then again, that’s not really the case: Trump and Netanyahu are in constant contact. The Israeli prime minister sees such plans as yet another way to advance his proposed annexation of the West Bank, perhaps improving the economic situation of the Palestinians, but with no real answer regarding a plan for political independence. 

This US plan for “prosperity” is nothing but a monumental deception: the Americans are simply strengthening the criminal annexation plans of the Israeli right. These days, it’s hard to say if the most serious threat to the region is the bellicose intentions of the US toward Iran—on this front, the Russian intervention to put on the breaks was very welcome—or the economic fairy tales meant to cover up US support for the Israeli annexation policy, which brings the danger of another war in the region.

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