June 25, 2019
Thank you, very much. And thank you to everyone for being here. Before I begin, I want to thank our gracious hosts: His Majesty King Hamad, His Royal Highness Prince Salman, and His Excellency Sheikh Salman. I want to thank the Kingdom of Bahrain and the people of Bahrain for being such gracious hosts.
When I came and visited with you and your father about a couple of months ago, in February, and presented to him the way we were thinking about solving this conflict, and the vision — he said “This is great. This is exactly the thinking that we need in this region,” and asked that we come back here and try to assemble a bunch of leaders to talk this through and to start framing it. And we’ve been very, very overwhelmed by the reaction we’ve received. So I really want to thank you.
I also want to thank President Trump for his vision and leadership, and commitment to bringing peace to the Middle East and also throughout the entire world.
I want to thank Secretary Mnuchin for leading President Trump’s delegation to this workshop and for all of the amazing work that you and your team have done to help us make this a reality.
I also want to thank everyone for joining us here today.
The people in this room are not people who shy away from hard problems, and everyone here would like to see us bring an end to this Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The fact that so many global leaders and experts on investment came from all around the world shows that there is a serious interest, appetite, and willingness by the global community to help the Palestinian people, if the right context can be created.
For too long, the Palestinian people have been trapped in an inefficient framework of the past. The Peace to Prosperity Vision is a modern framework for a brighter and more prosperous future.
It is a vision of what is possible with peace.
The conventional wisdom about the fate of the Palestinians is remarkably consistent. In meeting after meeting, and conference after conference, I hear the same broken record of negativity about why progress is not possible.
When I ask my counterparts why they continue to repeat these same tired talking points — despite no evidence that they lead to progress — they say: “But we’ve always said these things, we’ve always done things this way.”
While politicians pay lip service, the world moves forward, and the Palestinian people continue to be left behind.
We all agree on the following goals: We want to see peace, security, and prosperity for Palestinians, Israelis, and everyone else throughout the world; We want the freedom for people to worship without persecution; We want people to live together with dignity and respect; And we want to create better lives for their children and for future generations.
We do not need to spend a lot of time, discussing how we got here. We all know how we got here.
Over the past decades, there have been many stops and starts in the Palestinian economy. Numerous, well-intended programs, investments and plans have been derailed by violence, political instability and the lack of a resolution to the longstanding core issues of this conflict.
To be clear, economic growth and prosperity for the Palestinian people are not possible without an enduring and fair political solution to the conflict — one that guarantees Israel’s security, and respects the dignity of the Palestinian people.
However, today is not about the political issues. We will get to those at the right time.
The goal of this workshop is to begin thinking about these challenges in a new way.
Let’s try to view this conflict, and the potential of the entire region, through a different lens, and work together to develop a concrete plan to try to achieve it.
For a moment, imagine a new reality in the Middle East.
Imagine a bustling commercial and tourist center in Gaza and the West Bank, where international businesses come together and thrive.
Imagine the West Bank as a blossoming economy, full of entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, and business leaders.
Imagine people and goods flowing quickly and securely throughout the region as [economies] become more integrated and people become more prosperous.
This isn’t a stretch. This is actually the historical legacy of the Middle East—specifically of Gaza and the West Bank. It is a legacy of great cultures coming together as a center of commerce, innovation, and prosperity.
At its apex, the commercial traffic on the desert routes through Arabia—culminating in Gaza—was so dense that historians compared it to an army on the march. But in recent years, for much of the Middle East—and longer for the Palestinians—the only armies on the march have been armies.
But in recent years, instead of building on a history of innovation and entrepreneurship, the Palestinians became the highest per-capita donor-aid recipients in the world, with no plan and no end in sight.
I might be in the minority, but I believe that this can change.
President Trump ran on a very straightforward platform—to keep people safe, and to create the opportunity for prosperity in America and throughout the world. The last two years have been a lot of hard work, but by implementing his policies, President Trump has created the best economy America has seen in a very long time. Perhaps even the best we have ever had.
Prosperity is not something that is given to people. Prosperity is something that is earned with smart planning, determination, and fortitude. The Palestinian people have these qualities—intelligence, strength, perseverance, courage—in great supply.
Let’s harness these strengths and create the opportunity for them to succeed.
My direct message to the Palestinian people is that despite what those who have let you down in the past tell you, President Trump and America have not given up on you. This workshop is for you.
The vision we developed and released, if executed correctly, will lead to a better future for the Palestinian people. A future of dignity, prosperity, and opportunity.
You can change your course for the positive, if we are willing to try new things, and think outside of the traditional box.
Peace can only be achieved if it comes with a pathway for people to improve their lives. One who is more hopeful, and sees opportunity for his or her family, will put energy into pursuing opportunity, instead of blaming others for their current misfortune. That is why agreeing on an economic pathway forward is a necessary pre-condition to resolving what is a previously unsolvable political issue.
Enormous amounts of money have been wasted on corruption, munitions, and conflict in this region. Imagine if that money was invested in infrastructure, education, workforce training, and healthcare.
When we reached out to one Middle Eastern investment fund to attend this workshop, they politely replied that they didn’t think they should attend because they don’t invest in this region. That was exactly our point.
We want people to be thinking about how we can create the condition to invest in this region. We need to bring change so that this region can become investible, as a center of opportunity, as opposed to an area that is written off and overlooked.
So how do we begin to make this change?
We need the right plan and we need to create the right environment.
While we endeavored to create the framework, the hope from this workshop is that we will be able to freely and constructively discuss the different ideas, get peer feedback, modify, and then ultimately finalize a vision as a globally supported plan.
We are joined here today by representatives from the world’s leading institutions. We’re very fortunate to have with us the President of the World Bank, David Malpass; we’re very fortunate to have the Chairman of the IMF, Christine Lagarde; major donor countries; the largest companies; investment funds from all over the world; builders; innovators; job creators, and capital allocators. And you’ll be hearing from a lot of them over the next couple of days.
I want to thank you all for being here and for expressing an interest in using your knowledge and capital not just to create returns, but also to drive change in the real world for real people.
This group has the ability to work together to create a historic opportunity for the Palestinian people, and the people of this region.
Some people have mockingly called this effort the “Deal of the Century”—but at its core, it is not about just making a deal.
In fact, this effort is better referred to as the “Opportunity of the Century,” if leadership has the courage to pursue it.
This is about creating opportunity for the Palestinian people.
This is about creating opportunity for the people throughout the Middle East.
If implemented correctly and competently, the economic plan I will go through now, will lead to growth and better lives.
To create this vision, we have drawn from the lessons of the most successful economic transformations over the last 75 years. We studied — along with the worlds’ leading experts, and thinkers, and economists — Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Peru, Poland, China, and America. We took the elements that we thought could apply and tried to avoid the areas where we’ve seen mistakes in other attempts that people took over the years to try to implement these reforms.
What we have developed is the most comprehensive economic plan that has ever been created specifically for the Palestinians and for the broader Middle East. We can turn this region from a victim of past conflicts into a model for commerce and advancement throughout the world.
Over the next two days, I want us all to keep in mind the following question: Should we find reason to stay with the status quo — a broken system that favors few at the expense of many?
Or, should we push together to find new solutions and fight for a brighter future filled with opportunity and hope?
I know which one I want to choose.
I appreciate you all embracing this challenge with me. The United States and President Trump are committed to finding a better future for the Palestinians, for the Israelis, and for the entire Middle East.
By working together, we can reach our ultimate goal, which is a real Peace that leads to Prosperity.