Morning Brief

Kushner Launches Middle East Peace Plan

Plus: Ethiopia grapples with the aftermath of an attempted coup, Iran won’t negotiate with the U.S., and the other stories we’re following today.

White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner attends a conference on peace and security in the Middle East in February.
White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner attends a conference on peace and security in the Middle East in February. JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: In Bahrain, Jared Kushner launches the first part of his Middle East peace plan, Ethiopia grapples with the aftermath of a failed coup, and Iran and the United States disagree on talks.

We welcome your feedback at morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.


White House Touts $50 Billion Plan

The first part of the White House Middle East peace plan will be launched at a conference in Bahrain today. Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a White House advisor, is courting support for the proposal among attendees, including representatives and investors from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian government envoys will attend.

Those involved have set low expectations. The plan has already drawn criticism and protests from Palestinians, who say prioritizing the economy is a failed approach. Many observers believe that the investment plan will likely only go forward if Israel and the Palestinian territories reach a political solution—and the political component of the White House peace plan hasn’t yet been unveiled. The veteran U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross contends that the conference could still help stabilize the situation in the West Bank and Gaza and therefore should not be dismissed completely.

What’s in the plan? Donor countries and investors would put $50 billion into regional projects: $28 billion to the Palestinian territories and the rest to Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon. Kushner has called it the “opportunity of the century.” The 179 proposed projects include a transport link between Gaza and the West Bank.

Who will sign on? There are doubts that the conference in Bahrain will be able to raise enough money or support, as it’s not clear that the wealthy Gulf states in attendance will commit donations to a plan criticized by the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority has boycotted the conference. “Money is important. The economy is important. But politics are more important,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said.

Both Jordan and Lebanon have also expressed skepticism toward the plan, seeing billions of dollars in aid as a tradeoff for settling more Palestinian refugees. Egypt’s foreign minister has deferred to the Palestinian Authority. Support from European leaders could be crucial, Muriel Asseburg and Hugh Lovatt argue in FP, and the EU shouldn’t sign on to Kushner’s initiative unless it respects Palestinian rights and international law.


What We’re Following Today

Ethiopia deals with the aftermath of an attempted coup. General Asamnew Tsige, who allegedly tried to seize control of the northern Amhara state in Ethiopia over the weekend, was killed Monday, and 182 others were arrested. Questions remain about the attacks—which killed five people, including the national army’s chief of staff and the state’s president. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office has released scant details, and people across Ethiopia have reported an internet blackout.

Abiy came to power last year and has made sweeping changes in the country—notably, reining in its security services. “Ethiopia has lived under an authoritarian government for many, many years. And when you try to change that overnight, it’s like releasing this pressure valve,” Felix Horne, a Human Rights Watch expert, told FP’s Jefcoate O’Donnell. “It’s clearly a very critical juncture. And we just hope that Abiy’s response to all of this is not to roll back the reforms.”

U.S. wants talks, Iran doesn’t. The United States slapped new sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other officials on Monday. Trump administration’s goal seems to be to get Iran back to the negotiating table, but Iran’s U.N. ambassador said that talks would not happen in the face of the sanctions. Iran’s population is struggling under the pressure of the escalating sanctions, the Associated Press reports.

Trump to visit South Korea. After the G-20 summit in Japan this weekend, U.S. President Donald Trump will travel to South Korea and meet President Moon Jae-in. The visit comes as Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchanged letters, raising hopes for a resumption of nuclear talks between the two leaders. Still, the U.S. intelligence community does not think that North Korea will denuclearize.


Keep an Eye On

Turkey’s political prisoners. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is grappling with the fallout of the ruling party’s big defeat in the Istanbul mayoral election, and his government faces pressure to release political prisoners. Sixteen people went on trial on Monday accused of trying to overthrow Erdogan’s government by organizing popular nationwide protests in 2013. Prosecutors are seeking life sentences without parole.

Canada’s missing women. Public opinion in Canada has swung toward solidarity with indigenous people in recent years, and a new government inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous girls has found widespread prejudice that clouds police investigations. The report could provide a blueprint for other countries grappling with their past and current treatment of indigenous peoples, Justin Ling writes for FP.

A Russian plane in Venezuela. A Russian air force jet has landed at Venezuela’s main airport, the second such arrival in three months amid the country’s ongoing crisis. When two Russian planes landed in Venezuela in March, they brought defense officials and troops—causing the United States to accuse Russia of “reckless escalation.” President Nicolás Maduro’s government has continued to detain political opposition figures, drawing U.N. criticism over the weekend.

Islamic State families. Australia repatriated eight children of Islamic State fighters on Monday, while at least 50 Australian women and children are still in Syrian refugee camps. U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged countries to take responsibility for their citizens who remain in Iraq and Syria—especially the estimated 29,000 children of foreign fighters.


Odds and Ends

Zimbabwe has reintroduced its own dollar and banned the use of foreign currencies like the U.S. dollar and the South African rand, which have been widely circulated since a hyperinflation crisis a decade ago. Observers see the revival of the Zimbabwean dollar as a quick measure to grapple with ongoing economic turmoil, but it could just send use of the U.S. dollar underground.

Next week, Japan will break with a global moratorium and resume commercial whaling—a decision that has prompted widespread censure. But experts say the move isn’t likely to spark much industry growth. Japanese tastes have changed: Whale makes up just 0.1 percent of meat consumption in the country today.

Paris is finally cracking down on electric scooters, which operate unregulated and have drawn vocal criticism from locals. From next month, police will issue fines for speeding and bad parking. Pedestrians aren’t convinced the enforcement will work. More than 40,000 rental scooters are expected on the city’s streets by the end of the year.


That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is the newsletter editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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