When you read Peace to Prosperity, the American economic plan to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the first question that comes to mind is why are Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA)/Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) rejecting it?
Setting the goals and path to the $50 billion investment, the plan, which is clearly rooted in the basic paradigms of the Oslo Accords, would appear to give the Palestinians almost everything they want.
Far from being a solely “economic” vision for the development of Palestine, Peace to Prosperity incorporates themes of a purely political nature, favorable to the Palestinian narrative and detrimental to Israel’s.
The plan refers repeatedly to the area Israel seized in the Six Day War from the Jordanians as “the West Bank” – i.e., the term coined by the Jordanians, and adopted by the Palestinians, for the area of land that Israel refers to as Judea and Samaria. It continues to discuss the need and practicalities of physically connecting the West Bank to the Gaza Strip in order to allow the free movement of Palestinians and goods between the two areas.
Going further than the Oslo Accords, the plan assumes independent Palestinian control over the border crossings of the Palestinian state, granting the Palestinians the ability to gather import taxes. At present, Israel controls the external border crossings and collects all the import taxes, which are then transferred to the PA.
Referring to Palestinian development in the West Bank, the plan integrally requires the extension of the Palestinian control beyond the areas they govern today into the areas which are solely governed by Israel. These development plans include the laying of new roads and the building of both industrial areas and residential housing.
Additional to these and other plans, Peace to Prosperity makes one major factual claim that represents the US adoption of the PA/PLO narrative. Discussing the development of the Palestinian manufacturing industry, the plan refers to “Palestinian craftsmanship” that has been in demand for “hundreds of years.” Critics of this claim would refer the authors of the plan to the words of Palestinian historian Abd Al-Ghani Salameh, as exposed by Palestinian Media Watch, who said that at the time of the Balfour Declaration – i.e., 1917, just over 100 years ago – “there was nothing called a Palestinian people.”
Since the plan adopts Palestinian terminology and narrative, and is often implicitly critical of Israel, the question remains, why is the Palestinian leadership rejecting it?
At present, the Palestinian leadership is divided into two – Hamas, an internationally designated terrorist organization and the PA/PLO.
Hamas, which won the last Palestinian election and controls the Gaza Strip, rejects the plan since Hamas is guided by Islamic principle of “Jihad” – holy war against the non-believers – and openly rejects Israel’s very right to exist. Any plan that does not wipe Israel off the face of the globe was, is, and always will be, unacceptable to them.
The PA/PLO’s rejection of the plan has nothing to do with its substantive contents. They reject the plan because it plainly, albeit elegantly, says that for the last 25 years, the PA/PLO leaders have failed the Palestinian people.
Presenting “A new vision for the Palestinian people,” Peace and Prosperity focuses on the Palestinian people and not its failed PA/PLO leadership. This approach is clear from the opening sentences of the plan. Criticizing the PA/PLO’s eternal narrative of victimhood, the plan suggests opening “a new chapter in Palestinian history – one defined not by adversity and loss, but by freedom and dignity.” This approach undermines the PA/PLO leadership’s message to the Palestinians which for decades has blamed the woes of the Palestinians on the Israeli “occupation” while absolving itself of any responsibility.
The reforms the plan suggests to the Palestinian legal, educational, and health systems reflect deep-seated and wholly justifiable criticism of the failed, biased, and ineffectual systems that the PA/PLO, abusing billions of dollars of donor aid, has created.
Putting this criticism aside, the final PA/PLO rejection of the plan came when the US authors dared to state that the capital raised would not be given directly to the PA/PLO but rather would be “administered by a multilateral development bank” that would ensure its efficient and effective allocation so that “all the Palestinians – not just the wealthy and connected – share in the benefits of peace.”
These provisions, which envision the average “Palestinian on the street” enjoying the fruits of peace – including the $50 billion Peace and Prosperity investment plan — are the real reason for the PA/PLO rejection of the plan. For years, the Palestinian leaders and their cronies have reportedly lined their pockets with millions of dollars of donor aid. This, according to the plan, would all come to an end.
That, in a nutshell, is 50 billion reasons why the PA/PLO leaders reject Peace for Prosperity.