White House adviser Jared Kushner has branded the United States' plan for the Middle East "the opportunity of the century" for the Palestinians, but said their acceptance was a precondition to peace.
His comments on Tuesday came as he began promoting the US government's economic blueprint for investment in the region during a workshop in Bahrain, billed as the first part of Washington's broader plan to resolve decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The two-day event in Bahrain's capital, Manama, has been boycotted by the Palestinian Authority, which has rejected it as an ill-fated attempt to "liquidate the Palestinian cause". The US did not invite Israeli government representatives, but several officials from regional countries are in attendance.
Addressing the attendees, Kushner, who is also US President Donald Trump's son-in-law, said: "Agreeing on an economic pathway forward is a necessary precondition to resolving the previously unsolvable political issues."
While the workshop will not address political solutions, Kushner recognised in his speech the need to take them up later.
Trump has taken an unapologetically pro-Israel line during his presidency, with moves including his controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in late 2017. Kushner acknowledged widespread scepticism about the US president's intentions but said the Palestinians had been ill-served by previous peacemaking efforts.
The political details of the White House's plan, which has been almost two years in the making, remain a secret.
Its economic proposal, however, makes no mention of a Palestinian state or an end to Israeli occupation. Instead, it calls for $50bn in investment over 10 years in the Palestinian territories and their Arab neighbours. In total, 179 local projects bankrolled by a "master fund" would cover areas ranging from water and agriculture to education and healthcare.
Saudi Arabia - a close US ally which shares a common foe with Israel in Iran - expressed support on Tuesday for "international efforts aimed at improving prosperity, investment and economic growth in the region".
But Riyadh reiterated that any peace deal should be based on the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative that has been the Arab consensus on the necessary elements for a deal since 2002.
Palestinian rejection and protests
Over the past two days, Palestinians in the occupied territories have protested against the US-led Middle East peace plan.
Palestinian leaders, who have refused to engage with the Trump administration accusing it of being the most biased towards Israel in US history, have also been scathing about its prospects of success.
"Money is important. The economy is important. But politics are more important. The political solution is more important," PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday.
For his part, Ismail Haniya, leader of Hamas, the group which controls the besieged Gaza Strip, described the event in Manama as "a political event with a financial and economic camouflage".
The workshop will "lay the foundation for terminating the Palestinian cause," Haniya said, adding that "it gives the green light to the Zionist enemy to extend its occupation and control over the entire West Bank."
Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza have called for more protests to be held on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.