Kerry unveils Palestinian economic plan as precursor to peace deal

Kerry said that the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have agreed to “promote economic development” and “move very rapidly towards increased business expansion and private sector investment in the West Bank.”

He said those steps should “help improve the economic security of the people living there as well as improve the security of the people of Israel.”

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Kerry has made restarting the stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians a priority. The White House however has been careful not to create unrealistic expectations while letting Israel and the Palestinians take the lead, in part to avoid hurting Obama if they fail to take off.

In his announcement, Kerry stressed that economic efforts would not be a substitute for meaningful peace talks.

“I emphasize this very strongly: This is not in lieu of, or an alternative to, the political track,” said Kerry. “It is not a substitute. The political track remains the primary focus.”

“This is in addition to, in a way that could help to facilitate that track, and I believe will begin to take hold immediately,” he added.

Kerry made the announcement during a solo press conference after meeting earlier in the day with Netanyahu. He said a list of corporations that would participate as well as more detailed plans should be announced shortly.

“I held discussions regarding these efforts with both Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as with the Quartet representative Tony Blair, and other private sector business people,” Kerry said. “And this will be a focus of our work over the course of the next months in a very intensive way, and I will have more to say about this in the very near future.”

Kerry said President Obama was “committed” to the idea and would enlist agencies such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as international financial institutions. He said he talked in “some detail” with Netanyahu about “the specific steps that we could take to break through red tape to help expedite the goal of economic growth on the West Bank.

“I let him know that I have already been in touch with our partners in the United States,” Kerry said. “All of these efforts will be put into this initiative to try to make a significant dent with respect to employment and economic security of the West Bank.”