22 June 2019   Leave a comment

The White House released the economic part of its peace plan for the Middle East, labeling it the “Peace Through Prosperity” plan. The plan will be discussed in the coming week at a conference in Bahrain where a number of states will be involved but not, crucially, representatives from the Palestinians. They have decided to boycott the meeting since they do not believe that the US is an unbiased party. Several of the Sunni Arab Gulf states, notably Saudi Arabia, will attend the conference, where it is expected that they will indicate whether they will contribute substantially to the proposal which is expected to cost about $50 billion over ten years. According to Politico:

“Funds for the international effort would be dispensed by a multinational development bank and controlled by an appointed board of governors, according to details of the plan shared by the White House. The $50 billion would come from a mix of grants, subsidized loans and private investments, and would be put toward infrastructure projects as well as initiatives involving telecommunications, tourism and healthcare.”

The second part of the peace plan, which involves a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, is expected to be released later on in the fall. The Palestinians believe that the economic cart is being put before the political horse. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has very little control over its finances and is incredibly dependent on foreign donors for revenues as well as Israel, which collects certain taxes on behalf of the PA. Unfortunately, Israel and the foreign donors often withhold the payments in response to decisions made by the PA:

” While the PA has relied more and more on taxes to fund its budget, what should be a straightforward matter of state finances has been anything but.

“The PA directly collects domestic taxes from its citizens, amounting to $764m in 2017 out of a total domestic revenue of $1.15bn. 

“But under the Paris Protocol signed in 1994 as part of the Oslo Accords, Israel collects taxes on Palestinian imports and exports as well as VAT on behalf of the PA.

“In 2017, customs revenue transferred by Israel to the PA – also known as clearance revenues – amounted to $2.49bn.

“On average, Israel collects around $175m each month in taxes on Palestinian imports and exports on behalf of the PA.

“Like the rest of the Oslo agreements, what was intended to be a temporary arrangement pending the creation of a fully fledged Palestinian state remains until this day, shackling the Palestinian economy to a stalled peace process, US pressure and years of occupation that restrict the movement of goods and people, vital elements for any economy to grow….

“Moreover, Israel has yielded the Paris Protocol as a punitive tool against Palestinians, using the customs fees and taxes it collects on behalf of the PA as a means of pressure on the Ramallah-based government.

“The most recent case was in February, when Israel withheld $138m in tax transfers to the PA as retaliation over payments made by Palestinian institutions to Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, as well as to the families of Palestinians killed by Israelis.”

Middle East peace plans have a miserable record and there is little reason to think that this plan will be successful. The Sunni Arab Gulf states will likely support the plan in order to secure US support in containing Iran, but some of those states–like Saudi Arabia–are unsavory allies in any effort.

The Washington Blog has compiled an extraordinary list of “false flag” incidents that states have created in order to justify going to war. The list is well-documented although there are some incidents that I would probably dispute. But the list is an invaluable resource for those who believe that citizens are often manipulated into supporting wars that the ruling elites wish to conduct for their own purposes. The list is a sorry statement on how widespread the practice actually is, even as we often resist believing that we are being misled.

Posted June 22, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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