Outsourcing US Foreign Policy


- by Fred Schlomka -


President Trump must be really desperate. The administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity Workshop’, scheduled for 25th June in Bahrain, seems to be lacking in willing participants and so they are resorting to desperate measures, including outsourcing the organising of the Workshop to a private company. The recent flood of random ‘personal’ invitations to the event is an obvious fishing attempt to find  naive, ignorant, or opportunistic participants to prop up the farce.

My office received no less than seven invitations. Two addressed to senior staffers, including myself, and the other five addressed to our generic email addresses. Yet the letters were from Secretary Steven Mnunchin’s official email address at the Treasury Department. What’s going on?

The letters arrived with no schedule of activities and claimed that it was a “personal and non-transferable invitation” – yet one was addressed to info@. . . . !  The invite offered “high-level panel discussions”. “workshops”, and “collaborative working sessions”, but contained no details regarding any structured framework, or who the presenters and panel members were to be. No schedule of activities were offered for this event which is to be held in less than a month from now.

This effort appears to be outsourced and organised by the New York-based public relations and event management company, Richard Attias Associates.

The letter claims that the event’s goal is to “ . . . unleash economic growth, boost human capital, and enhance governance and the business investment environment for the Palestinians and the broader Middle East.”  It is anyone’s guess how they expect this to happen without the support and participation of the Palestinian government.

Anyone with the least familiarity regarding the situation in Israel/Palestine knows that the necessary first step is recognition of an independent State of Palestine,  or the absorption of Palestinian Territories into the state of Israel with equal rights for all the residents. If freedom and self-determination have been necessary conditions for economic growth in other countries, why not in Palestine? Isn’t that a basic tenet of free enterprise and capitalism long promoted by the United States? Palestinians have the necessary know-how, a highly educated population, and sufficient entrepreneurial skills to drive the engine of economic growth once conditions of freedom have been achieved.

The US administration is either extremely disorganised, or desperate to find appropriate fig leaves for what, by all accounts, is likely to be a farce. My Palestinian colleagues in the PA and the business sector are not going to the workshop, yet these are the very people who would need to be the partners for any proposed investment or economic development in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has likewise refused to attend. So where does that leave Mnunchin, Kushner and the rest of the Trump gang trying to steamroller Palestinians into their ‘economic peace plan’. Been there. Done that. It doesn’t work.

There are two words that best describe the necessary conditions for peace – Sovereignty and Freedom. Neither will be offered to the Palestinians in the upcoming unveiling of the so-called peace plan.

I responded to the fishing letter and asked for more details of the proposed  ‘Peace to Prosperity Workshop’, and promptly received an email response asking for a telephone call. The email response was CCed to several high level associates at the White House and the Treasury Department. So I took the phone call from a young lady at Richard Attias Associates and got the impression that several other people were listening in. I was read a template pitch about the event but without much new information. However it was apparent that they had done some homework and knew a bit about Green Olive. After probing a bit, but receiving little of substance I informed them that I would consult with my colleagues and get back to them. I did not. It was obvious from this phone call, and other indicators about the event, that its purpose was to sideline the Palestinian people in deciding their own future, a continuation of decades-long US policies.

Expecting the Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza to roll over and accept the status quo in return for a few crumbs off the table is naïve at best. Of course there will be a handful of greedy collaborators in the PA and private businesspeople who will accept whatever handouts are offered, but the bulk of the Palestinian people, and their leaders, will resist any attempt to formalise the Apartheid nature of the regime in the West Bank/Judea & Samaria, and Gaza. Despite any proposed economic improvement, the upcoming plan promises to retain the present system of reservations or enclaves for Arabs, known as Area ‘A’, while their Jewish neighbors in nearby communities have citizenship and freedom of movement.

The next step by Palestinians may well be increasing demands for equal rights within the state of Israel. If the Israeli Jewish people, represented by their government, refuse to allow the dignity of true independence, and insist on relegating Palestinians to a status like Native Americans in the USA, then we deserve everything that’s coming – more war – more civil strife – annexation – Apartheid – and ultimately a single state emerging from the chaos. Those of us at the forefront of social and political change in Israel/Palestine may need to bunker down for a while, as freedom lovers had to do in the USA in the late 19th/early 20th century. It was a century-long struggle in America for Women’s rights, Native American rights, African-American rights, and others (not yet concluded). So too as Israelis and Palestinians, my colleagues and I have the responsibility to continue the struggle until our just demands are realised.

No farcical ‘Peace to Prosperity Workshop’ will divert us from this goal. Many in Israel and the US call us ‘traitors to the Jewish people’, ‘self-hating Jews’ and the like. However we are proudly Jewish, living in the land of our tribal heritage, and only wanting our Palestinian neighbors to live as equals with the Jewish population, in every meaning of the word.

So I call on the Trump Administration to cease and desist their support for Israeli oppression, and demand that each and every person living between the River and the Sea, be awarded equal rights – whether one state or two is almost irrelevant at this point. If the principals of equality, dignity, and freedom are agreed by all sides, then there is no doubt that we can sort out the rest of the issues, and our future will become a boundless possibility of prosperity and stability.

First the political solution, then the economic development. In that order. This upcoming workshop in Bahrain is a waste of time.
 __________
Fred Schlomka is an American/Israeli businessman, and Managing Partner of the Green Olive Collective, a company of Palestinian and Israeli Working Partners providing tours and educational services in Israel and Palestine.

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