Counting the Cost

Who will pay for Trump’s $50bn ‘deal of the century’?

The White House’s economic plan to peace in the Middle East was roundly dismissed by Palestinians and many others.

US President Donald Trump promised the “deal of the century” to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. But so far, not a dollar has been pledged.

Trump’s son-in-law and presidential adviser, Jared Kushner, delivered an economic plan he called the “opportunity of the century”. But the proposal was roundly dismissed by Palestinians and many others.

The plan calls for $50bn in investments over 10 years: $28bn to the Palestinian territories in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and the rest is to be split between Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

It is hoped the money will help double the Palestinian economy, creating one million jobs in the process. That should reduce the Palestinian unemployment rate to nearly single digits, and lower the poverty rate by 50 percent.

But who is expected to write that $50bn cheque? Kushner hoped Gulf states and private investors would see the benefit of the 179 proposed infrastructure and business projects, including a $5bn corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza. But the plan was never going to fly without a political solution.

Long-time campaigner Hanan Ashrawi commented on Twitter, in a response typical of the push-back against the proposal, saying: “First lift the siege of Gaza, stop the Israeli theft of our land, resources & funds, give us our freedom of movement & control over our borders, airspace, territorial waters etc. Then watch us build a vibrant prosperous economy as a free & sovereign people.”

For his part, Kushner – in an interview with Al Jazeera – offered a glimpse of what the political process could look like.

“I think we all have to recognise that if there ever is a deal, it’s not going to be along the lines of the Arab peace initiative. It will be somewhere between the Arab peace initiative and somewhere between the Israeli position,” he said.

“And we need to think about what are the fundamental things that are underlying and important. Number one is security. I think that the Israeli population and the Palestinian population and the broader Middle East right now cares about having security. The more you have security, the more you can have freer flow of goods, freer flow of people, I know that’s a very big issue for the Palestinians.”

But Palestinians in the West Bank tell Al Jazeera that a financial solution alone is not enough to solve the decades-long conflict. 

“The World Bank has stated very clearly in their regular reports that if the siege on the West Bank and Gaza is lifted, the Palestinian economy can grow on 15 percent yearly,” Mazen Sinokrot, a former Palestinian economy minister, tells Counting the Cost.

“If the Israelis will also make access for Palestinians to expand their businesses and social life in the Jordan valley, we can easily create another 100,000 jobs. So at the end, it’s an issue related to occupation.”

China’s challenge to the German car industry

Diesel was supposed to be the future. But the German car industry has paid and continues to count the cost of promoting the fuel – after regulators caught some in the industry cheating on emissions tests.

Now, it is spending billions to go electric. But the cost could be tens of thousands of jobs lost.

The German car industry employs 1.8 million people directly and indirectly. Livelihoods are threatened because electric cars don’t need complicated combustion engines – which will lead to the loss of more than 100,000 jobs by 2035.

For the economy, the German car industry is a big earner, bringing in $500bn annually. To keep its global leadership, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen will spend $45bn on electric vehicle technology over the next three years.

While German carmakers are getting ready to spend billions on electric cars – one nation has stolen a march in this field.

China’s technology is considered to be miles ahead of its rivals.

Economics editor Abid Ali spoke to Alexander Klose, the executive vice president of Chinese electric carmaker Aiways, about the company’s plans to expand overseas, starting in Germany.

“We think we have a very good foundation here in China where you actually have a huge electrical vehicle market already. And we want to export that to other places where we think the development hasn’t been as fast as it’s been in China,” Klose says.

“We don’t want to offer something for everybody in the market right now. We are just offering one certain vehicle and for a certain purpose. And we think that we have the solution for that,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, speaks to Adrian Finighan about whether there is enough lithium to power the world’s electric dream.

“Lithium isn’t rare … The Lithium industry has gone through a surge in exploration. Right now, there’s not as much investment going into the lithium industry to go beyond 2025 … So lithium isn’t geologically rare but the challenge is getting it into the supply chain in economic quantities,” Moores says.

“Investors are, at present, too scared to put their money into it because they don’t understand lithium, it’s too risky, it’s too specialist, or the EV story is to some too good to be true.”