Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said on Tuesday that prosperity for the Palestinians was not possible without a fair political solution - but that agreement on an economic way forward was a necessary precondition for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Kushner was addressing the opening of a workshop in Bahrain to showcase the economic portion of Washington's long-awaited Arab-Israeli peace plan, dubbed "the deal of the century," a $50 billion development blueprint unveiled this week that has been sharply criticised by Palestinians and Arabs across the region.
"What we have developed is the most comprehensive economic plan ever created specifically for the Palestinians and the broader Middle East," he told an audience that included International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
Also in attendance were business people from around the world, including Israelis and Palestinians, although neither side has any official representation.
"We can turn this region from a victim of past conflicts into a model for commerce and advancement throughout the world," Kushner said.
The lack of a political solution, which Washington has said will be unveiled later, has prompted rejection not only from Palestinians but in Arab countries with which Israel seeks to normalize relations. Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments were attending the curtain-raising event in Manama.
"My direct message to the Palestinian people is that, despite what those who have let you down in the past say, President Trump and America have not given up on you. This workshop is for you," Kushner said.
He said economic growth and prosperity for the Palestinians were not possible without an "enduring and fair political solution" to the conflict - one that guaranteed Israel's security and respected the dignity of the Palestinian people.
"However, today is not about the political issues. We will get to those at the right time," he said.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and various Gulf states have sent finance officials to the workshop. The White House says it did not invite Israeli representatives, so as to keep the event "apolitical."
The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has rejected the plan and wants nothing to do with the conference, arguing that an economic proposal cannot pre-empt a political resolution that addresses its long-standing demand for statehood.