Kushner: Agreement on economic pathway vital for Middle East peace

MANAMA (Reuters) - Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said on Tuesday that prosperity for the Palestinians was not possible without a fair political solution - but that agreement on an economic way forward was a necessary precondition for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Kushner was addressing the opening of a workshop in Bahrain to showcase the economic portion of Washington’s long-awaited Arab-Israeli peace plan, a $50 billion development blueprint unveiled this week that has been sharply criticized by Palestinians and Arabs across the region.

“What we have developed is the most comprehensive economic plan ever created specifically for the Palestinians and the broader Middle East,” he told an audience that included International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

“We can turn this region from a victim of past conflicts into a model for commerce and advancement throughout the world.”

The lack of a political solution, which Washington has said will be unveiled later, has prompted rejection not only from Palestinians but in Arab countries with which Israel seeks to normalize relations. Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments were attending the curtain-raising event in Manama.

“My direct message to the Palestinian people is that, despite what those who have let you down in the past say, President Trump and America have not given up on you. This workshop is for you,” Kushner said.

He said economic growth and prosperity for the Palestinians were not possible without an “enduring and fair political solution” to the conflict - one that guaranteed Israel’s security and respected the dignity of the Palestinian people.

“However, today is not about the political issues. We will get to those at the right time,” he said.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Manama, Aziz El Yaakoubi and Nafisa Eltahir in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Catherine Evans