Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Kerry pushes investment plan for West Bank

DEAD SEA, Jordan — Secretary of State John Kerry announced an estimated $4 billion economic development proposal for the West Bank on Sunday, part of an effort to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The greatest existential threat and the greatest economic threat to both sides is the lack of peace," Kerry said. "To not try to head these off would be tragic, and it would be irresponsible."

International business leaders rallied by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will propose new agricultural, construction and other investment to the Palestinian Authority that could increase the Palestinian gross domestic product by 50 percent over three years, Kerry said.

The State Department would not identify participating companies or provide other details about the content or timing of individual proposed investments.

Kerry addressed a World Economic Forum meeting after speeches by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres. The gathering on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan was a rare direct meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not attend.

Improving lives and expectations for Palestinians, many of them young and underemployed, is key, Kerry said, to building an independent Palestinian state at peace with neighboring Israel, and there is no time to waste.

Peres and Abbas both thanked Kerry for his efforts and pledged willingness to make peace.

Peres made a direct invitation to Abbas, calling him Israel's partner for peace.

Abbas delivered a largely unyielding address, which accused Israel of failing to seize the opportunity for peace presented by the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that Kerry is now using as a basis for new talks.

The Arab League proposal offers Israel full recognition and normalization with all Arab nations in exchange for Israel withdrawing to its 1967 borders.

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