White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said Wednesday that Palestinians would have a chance to help refine a multibillion-dollar economic plan for the West Bank and Gaza in the hope that the plan could lead to peace with Israel.
Palestinians have already rejected Kushner's "Peace to Prosperity" plan because they say it ignores their political aspirations.
"It was important to bring out the economic vision before the political vision ... because we need people to see what the future can look like," Kushner said at an economic workshop in Bahrain aimed at getting his plan off the ground.
The plan would create more than 1 million Palestinian jobs through $50 billion in investment in infrastructure, tourism and schools in the Palestinian territories and other Arab nations, including Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
President Donald Trump calls it the "Deal of the Century" and the White House describes it as "the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date."
Investors and donor nations are invited to pledge their support and their dollars.
But the Palestinian Authority boycotted Wednesday's conference in Bahrain, calling the plan an "insult to our intelligence" and "totally divorced from reality."
"The economic peace, which has been presented before repeatedly and which has failed to materialize because it does not deal with the real components of peace, is being presented once again, recycled once again," top Palestinian official Hanan Ashwari said. She noted that the question of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories was not mentioned once in Bahrain.
Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and a smaller number in the West Bank protested the U.S. initiative Wednesday. Some burned effigies of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while others chanted, "Palestine is not for sale."
Kushner said the "door is open" to the Palestinian Authority if it wants to participate in the plan.
"If they actually want to make their people's lives better, we have now laid out a great framework in which they can engage and try to achieve it. We're going to stay optimistic," he said.
No one from Israel was at the Bahrain talks, but Netanyahu said the Palestinian rejection of the plan was "not the way to proceed."
About 2 million people live in poverty the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, where the unemployment rate is 52%, educational opportunities are sparse, and neighborhoods remain full of burned out buildings and rubble from retaliatory Israeli airstrikes.