DEAD SEA, Jordan – US Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled on Sunday a $4
billion economic plan to revitalize the Palestinian economy, as he called on
Israelis and Palestinians to forgive past wrongs and return to the negotiating
“The plan for the Palestinian economy is bigger and bolder and
more ambitious than anything proposed since Oslo more than 20 years ago,” said
Kerry as he spoke at the closing session of the World Economic Forum by the Dead
Sea in Jordan.
President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas also addressed the final session
and sat next to each other in the
first row of the large auditorium as Kerry spoke.
This economic plan is
achievable and has the support of Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu,
Quartet special envoy Tony Blair will head the initiative,
with the help of the international business community.
Kerry, it will focus on developing the Palestinian private economy, a key
ingredient for economic independence.
If actualized, he said, it could
increase the Palestinian GDP by 50 percent over three years and cut unemployment
by two-thirds, to 8% down from 21%. It would also benefit the economies of
Israel and Jordan, Kerry said.
The effects could echo throughout the
region and could be used as an international model for applying investment to
make change, he said.
Investment in business, as well as in peace, could
totally change life on the ground for this area, Kerry said.
help build the future. Is this a fantasy? I do not think so,” he
But, in the end, a healthy Palestinian economy is nothing without
the political process, Kerry said, as he assured Abbas that his investment plan
was not a substitute for a diplomatic solution.
“The political approach
is central and it is our top priority,” the secretary of state said, because the
status quo cannot continue.
“The absence of peace,” he said, “is in fact
perpetual war, even if it’s low intensity. Are we ready, do we want to live with
a permanent intifada?” Kerry asked.
The greatest existential threat to
Palestinians and Israelis is the lack of peace, Kerry said, who unveiled his
plan after two months of intense diplomatic activity to rekindle direct
negotiations, which have been largely frozen since December 2008.
start of his speech, he held up a piece of paper and jokingly said, “I have an
agreement here, which you can both sign if you want to.”
On a more
serious note, he told both leaders at the end of his speech, “Negotiations
cannot succeed if you do not negotiate.”
On Thursday and Friday, he
visited Israel and the Palestinians territories, meeting with both Netanyahu and
On Sunday, Peres met with Abbas and with King Abdullah
Abbas, during his speech, held up a copy of the Arab League
Initiative, based on the pre-1967 lines with minor equivalent land swaps, and
urged Israel to accept it.
If it did so, it would have peace not just
with the Palestinians but with the Arab and Muslim world, Abbas said.
outlined some of the important issues that he said must be part of the
negotiations, including justice for Palestinian refugees and
There is an attempt, he said, to put the issue of refugees
outside the framework of negotiations.
The Palestinians, he said, would
not accept the idea of an interim solution, particularly one that called for
He also charged that Israel has not fulfilled its
obligations under a 1993 agreement to release prisoners.
Peres, in his
speech, changed his prepared remarks in response to Abbas, but declined to
respond point by point, explaining that he recalled a time when the PLO’s
arguments against a two-state solution made the situation seem even more
Back then, he said, these arguments made him feel as if progress
was impossible. But now, Peres said, he knows better.
“Let us sit
together. You will be surprised how much can be achieved in open, direct and
organized meetings,” Peres said.
Earlier in his speech Peres hailed the
2002 Arab Peace Initiative – amended from a two-state solution on the pre-1967
lines to one that is based on that line and include minor swaps of equitable
“Friends, we and our Palestinian neighbors must return to
negotiations as soon as possible and bring peace. President Abbas, you are our
partner and we are yours. You share our hopes and efforts for peace, and we
share yours. We can and should make the breakthrough. We should not permit the
hurdles to overcome us. History will judge us not by the process of
negotiations,” Peres said.
He received a standing ovation when he
finished his speech.
Earlier in the day, Palestinian chief negotiator
Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians would not hold direct talks with Israel until
Netanyahu would accept a state based on the pre-1967 lines and halt settlement