US Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled a plan on Sunday to boost the Palestinian economy by attracting US$4 billion in private investment, saying it could transform the lives of the people.
As he seeks to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the table to negotiate a peace deal, Kerry said it was also imperative to create jobs and meet the hopes of young people for a better economic future.
He has tasked former British prime minister Tony Blair, the Middle East Quartet’s special envoy, with drawing up a plan to revitalize the West Bank through boosting industries such as tourism, construction, information technology and agriculture.
Blair’s plan, being aided by some global business leaders who are giving their time free, could be “ground-shaking,” Kerry said.
The group was putting together recommendations for the Palestinian leadership to decide on, aiming to “mobilize some US$4 billion of investment.”
“These experts believe we will increase the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50 percent over three years,” Kerry told the closing session of the World Economic Forum meeting on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan.
About 100,000 jobs in home construction alone could be created in the next three years, while tourism could triple.
However, Kerry told the forum it stood before a historic moment, amid the yearnings for greater economic and social freedoms unleashed by the Arab Spring.
“We ignore the lessons of the Arab awakening at our own peril ... it is imperative that all of us channel our creativity and energy into making sure that people do actually have better choices,” he said.
He urged public and private sectors to work together saying they each “have a responsibility to meet the demands of this moment and one can’t do it without the other. We need you at the table.”
In a separate initiative unveiled at the forum in the Jordanian town of Al Shunah, about 300 Israeli and Palestinian business executives also urged their governments to move toward a two-state solution.
The Breaking the Impasse Initiative vowed to use their influence to convince leaders on both sides to resume serious talks, stalled since late 2010.
Israeli President Shimon Peres urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was sitting in the same front row of chairs, to “return to negotiations as soon as possible and bring peace.”
“President Abbas, you are our partner and we are yours,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said.
Abbas also called for young Palestinians to be given hope of a better future, and said his people “want to live with neighbors who we respect and they respect us also.”