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US peace plan aims to raise $50 billion, double Palestinian GDP

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The United States said Saturday that its Middle East peace plan to be presented next week in Bahrain aims to raise more than $50 billion for the Palestinians and double their GDP within a decade.

Unveiling details for the first time, President Donald Trump’s administration said the initiative will look at reforming the Palestinian economy and linking it to those of its neighbors, seeking to generate major international investment.

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The conference Tuesday and Wednesday in Bahrain, led by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, is the opening of a long-awaited Middle East peace initiative that officials say will later include a political component.

But the Palestinian Authority is boycotting the so-called Peace to Prosperity workshop, charging that the unabashedly pro-Israel Trump is seeking to buy off the Palestinians and deprive them of an independent state.

The White House cast the plan — to be discussed in more detail in Bahrain with finance chiefs of oil-rich Gulf Arab states — as historic.

“Peace to Prosperity represents the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date,” the White House said in the economic plan.

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“It has the ability to fundamentally transform the West Bank and Gaza and to open a new chapter in Palestinian history — one defined, not by adversity and loss, but by freedom and dignity,” it said.

It said that the plan aimed to raise more than $50 billion over the next decade, with a goal of more than doubling Palestinian Gross Domestic Product.

The White House said the initiative had the power to transform the troubled Palestinian economy by creating more than one million jobs — bringing the unemployment rate down to the single digits, in line with developed economies.

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In a step likely to outrage Palestinian leaders, it said that money would be administered by a multinational development bank as a way to ensure better governance and prevent corruption.


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Supreme Court to hear sentencing case for ‘Washington sniper’

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He has described himself as a "monster" and confessed to his crimes. Lee Boyd Malvo was 17 years old when he and an accomplice carried out a deadly three-week shooting spree that terrorized the Washington area in 2002.

Malvo was sentenced to life in prison without parole and the Supreme Court is to hear arguments on Wednesday on whether such a sentence can be meted out to a juvenile.

The nation's top court is hearing the case after a court in Virginia ruled that Malvo deserved another sentencing hearing because his age at the time was not taken into account.

Virginia's attorney general appealed the ruling and the Supreme Court will be deciding whether its 2012 and 2016 rulings that mandatory life sentences for minors are unconstitutional applies retroactively to Malvo's case.

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NASA unveils flexible, one-size-fits-all space suits

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Bye bye to bunny hops: when US astronauts next touch down on the Moon, expect them to walk almost as they do on Earth, thanks to a new generation of spacesuits offering key advantages over those of the Apollo-era.

Prototypes of the Orion Crew Survival Suit that will be worn on the journey and the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) for the lunar surface were unveiled at NASA's Washington headquarters Tuesday ahead of the agency's planned return to the Moon by 2024.

Standing in front of a giant US flag, spacesuit engineer Kristine Davis wore a pressurized red, blue and white xEMU suit, showing off a vastly improved range of motion thanks to bearings systems on the waist, arms, and legs.

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Hong Kong leader abandons policy speech after heckles from lawmakers

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Hong Kong's embattled leader abandoned a State of the Union-style speech on Wednesday after she was heckled by rowdy opposition lawmakers during chaotic scenes inside the city's legislature.

The speech by chief executive Carrie Lam was billed as an attempt to win hearts and minds after four months of seething pro-democracy protests.

Instead, it laid bare the intense polarisation coursing through the semi-autonomous financial hub after weeks of huge and increasingly violent rallies.

And it was swiftly dismissed by protesters who called for a new rally on Sunday.

Lam, who has historic low approval ratings, tried twice to begin her policy address inside the Legislative Council which had opened for a new session some three months after it was trashed by masked protesters.

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