Kerry's Plan for PA Economy Receives Cool Reception
A $4 billion U.S. plan to boost the Palestinian Authority’s economy was met with a cool response on Monday, as PA leaders insisted on a political dimension to the stimulus while Israel was mum as details remained unclear, AFP reports.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled the plan at the closing session of the World Economic Forum in Jordan on Sunday, tasking Tony Blair, the Quartet’s special envoy to the Middle East, with attracting the mammoth sum in private investment. The plan is part of Kerry’s ongoing efforts to kickstart the peace process which has been stalled since 2010.
The PA’s leadership warned on Monday, however, that it would “not offer political concessions in exchange for economic benefits,” according to a statement from Mohammad Mustafa, president of the Palestine Investment Fund and economic adviser to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
“We will not accept that the economy is the primary and sole component,” the statement said, according to AFP.
It added, “We wish it to be part of a political framework that will ensure the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem (as) its capital and the rights of refugees and a reference to a political solution -- these are the priorities.”
Fawzi Barhum, a spokesman for the Hamas terror group which rules Gaza, said on his Facebook page that “the so-called economic plan mentioned by Kerry deludes the public and gives more time to the Israeli entity.”
Kerry said economic experts believe the Palestinian Authority’s economy will grow “by as much as 50 percent over three years,” and unemployment will decline, but did not provide many details of the plan.
America’s top diplomat tasked Blair with drawing up a plan to revitalize the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria through boosting industries such as tourism, construction, information technology and agriculture.
A statement from the British envoy’s office said it was “analyzing the potential of various sectors of the Palestinian economy and identifying measures that could be taken to spur transformative economic growth.”
It said the goal was to boost the economy “by 50 percent within three years and reduce unemployment from 22 percent to single-digit figures.”
However, Blair’s office stressed that “the plan will complement, support and run in parallel with a renewed political process, and is not intended to replace that political process.”
Israel, meanwhile, has not officially reacted to the plan, a substantial portion of which is expected to take place in “Area C” which is under the Jewish state’s control.
The PA has complained of a financial crisis, the worse in its history, with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad having warned the entity may fail and cease to exist. At the same time the entity has continued to provide huge monthly salaries to terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons.
Kerry, as part of his attempts to revive the peace process, has been fighting to send the PA nearly $700 million in aid, despite major budget cuts and a fierce debate over where existing money should go.
A report in March said that the United States had quietly unblocked almost $500 million in aid to the PA which had been frozen by Congress for months.