Kerry backs private West Bank economic plan, but little detail

DEAD SEA, Jordan Sun May 26, 2013 5:07pm EDT

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Centre, at the Dead Sea May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Centre, at the Dead Sea May 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

Related Topics

DEAD SEA, Jordan (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry sketched out a plan on Sunday to spur Palestinian growth with up to $4 billion in private investment, but did not say where the money would come from.

Kerry drew a picture of prosperity in the West Bank that could spread to Israel and Jordan, while acknowledging it would not fully materialize without movement toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Despite deep skepticism in the region, Kerry is trying to revive negotiations after a gap of more than two years and has said both sides must decide soon whether they are ready to make compromises for peace.

While stressing his vision of an economic renaissance was not a substitute for negotiations, the U.S. diplomat appeared to hold out the prospect of rising growth, wages and employment as a way to build trust and provide an incentive to make peace.

"Is this a fantasy? I don't think so, because there are already great examples of investment and entrepreneurship that are working in the West Bank," he said at a World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa session with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

But Kerry did not identify specific companies with plans to set up shop in the West Bank or how he hoped to remove obstacles to Palestinian commerce.

"DIPLOMATIC QUICKSAND"

Kerry said a group working under former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is seeking to identify opportunities in tourism, construction, energy, agriculture and high-tech industries in the Palestinian territories, Kerry said.

Their preliminary studies suggest that Palestinian gross national product could rise by as much as 50 percent over three years, with unemployment falling by nearly two thirds to eight percent and wages rising up to 40 percent.

On April 9, Kerry had said he would unveil the initiative in mid-April, saying he, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas had agreed to undertake "new efforts, very specific efforts" to promote economic development and to remove "bottlenecks and barriers" to commerce in the West Bank.

The U.S. secretary of state did not provide details on easing such obstacles. Among the main impediments are Israeli restrictions on the movement and access of Palestinians as they seek to travel among their communities on the West Bank, according to a September 2012 United Nations report.

Among the main issues to be solved to end the conflict are borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.

Kerry acknowledged the deep doubts among Palestinians and Israelis that peace is possible.

"I have heard all the arguments against working for Middle East peace. It is famously reputed to be diplomatic quicksand," he said. "There is huge cynicism about this journey ... but cynicism has never built anything, certainly not a state."

At one point, he directly challenged the Palestinian and Israeli leaders, saying he hoped Netanyahu and Abbas "don't allow this conflict to outlast their administrations.

"Negotiations can't succeed if you don't negotiate."

He began his speech on a lighter note.

"I have an agreement right here if you want to sign it," Kerry joked with Abbas and Peres, who were both in the audience. "We'll get there. We'll get there."

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; editing by Mike Collett-White)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (8)
Harry079 wrote:
“John Kerry sketched out a plan on Sunday to spur Palestinian growth with up to $4 billion in private investment, but did not say where the money would come from.”

What does John Kerry think the Palestinians would grow with $4 billion?

Why don’t he give some of his wife’s millions to get the private investment money rolling in?

He could build something like maybe a Purple Heart manufacturing plant. He seemed to have a good talent for that. He could throw some ribbons into occupied West Bank and pretend he’s throwing them at the White House.

May 26, 2013 6:29pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TimUpham wrote:
If the West Bank and Gaza were politically united together, and were able to become the nation-state of Palestine, than they would be able to qualify for a World Bank loan. So if John Kerry is proposing U.S. $4 billion dollars as a Marshall Plan for the Palestinians, he will have to back track to try to get Gaza to recognize the State of Israel, so it too can set down along with Fatah in the peace negotiations with Israel. Because if he cannot, then his proposed U.S. $4 billion dollars will just be a pipe dream.

May 26, 2013 7:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
VultureTX wrote:
Wait does Abbas not own enough land in Jordan yet?
Any private investment would be subject to a hefty levy of kickbacks to the Fatah leadership (based on previous history).

And then there is the whole what industries would be allowed to operate in the West Bank. And of course most industries would not be allowed in Gaza, but they don’t care they already have a higher standard of living that the Egyptians across the border in the Sinai.

May 26, 2013 7:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.