(Jerusalem, Israel) — The White House made a dramatic announcement today: three additional Arab countries have agreed to participate in the Trump peace team’s economic conference, scheduled for June 25 and 26.
This brings the total number of participating Arab countries to seven.
At the conference, Jared Kusher and his team will roll-out the first section of their peace plan. This section is designed to dramatically improve the Palestinian economy, create good jobs, improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people and attract tens of billions of dollars in private investment and government aid to pay for it all.
The three newly-signed-on countries are:
They join four Gulf Arab countries who have already said “yes” to participating:
- Bahrain, which is also hosting the conference in its capital city of Manama
- the United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
Israel has not yet been formally invited. U.S. officials said they wanted to nail down significant Arab participation first. Now that that has happened, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is expected to receive his invitation soon. He has already indicated he is eager to attend.
Unfortunately two governments have said they will not participate.
- The Palestinian Authority
As I noted in my recent column, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his advisors aren’t just saying no, however. They are responding with tremendous anger towards the Trump team for having the event, and towards the Arab countries that are participating. They have pleaded with the leaders of these Arab countries to boycott the event, and warned that any Palestinian business leader who attends will be branded a “traitor” and “collaborator with the enemy.”
That said, it strikes me as a wise, even shrewd, move to unveil the economic portion of the peace plan first. Here’s why:
- It will focus the Palestinian people — if not their leaders — first and foremost on what they would “get” from making peace with Israel, not first on what they might have to “give.”
- It will create a conversation not just among Palestinian Arabs but among Arabs throughout the region on whether the Trump team is making specific, positive and useful proposals to make the lives of real people better.
- No previous American administration has ever offered a detailed financial plan to improve the Palestinian economy and infrastructure.
- We’ll get to see what countries are willing to invest the billions of dollars necessary to turn these ideas into reality.
All of us who pray for the peace of Jerusalem should be praying that this conference is not just petty politics as usual, but will lay out a truly meaningful and innovative plan that really can bring to much-needed help to the suffering people of the West Bank and Gaza. Personally, I’m very encouraged to see seven Arab nations playing a part. Perhaps they can even persuade Abbas and his team in Ramallah to take a deep breath, and come to Manama after all with an open mind.
(Photo: Egyptian President el-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.)
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