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White House invites Trump business allies to forum in search for a Middle East ‘deal of the century’

The White House has invited some of President Donald Trump’s key allies in the business world to an event later this month in Bahrain intended to kick-start the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan.

The meeting is part of Trump’s effort to strike the “deal of the century” for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Bahrain gathering will focus on the economic part of the push, which has been led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House advisor.

Yet while Palestinian leaders and executives have rejected invitations to attend the Bahrain summit, the administration is turning to corporate allies who have business interests in the region to take part in the deliberations.

Tom Barrack, a loyal supporter of the president and the CEO of real estate investment firm Colony Capital, will be heading to the event slated to start on June 25 at the Four Seasons in Bahrain’s capital, Manama.

“Tom is pleased to be a participant in a well organized forum for the purpose of advancing the peace process in the Middle East,” said his spokesman, Owen Blicksilver. “He has been a lifelong advocate of economic prosperity being a foundation stone of hope for the entire region especially its exploding young and largely unemployed population.”

Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and Goldman Sachs‘ Dina Powell are among the heavy hitters who have been invited to the gathering dubbed “Peace to Prosperity,” according to people familiar with the planning.

Schwarzman is likely to attend, one of the people said, while Fink will not be going due to previous commitments, a separate source added. It’s unclear whether Powell, a former deputy national security advisor under Trump, will join the group.

Schwarzman is a top donor to Trump’s reelection campaign. In 2017, he contributed $344,400 Trump’s joint fundraising committee.

Blackstone, BlackRock and Goldman Sachs all have extensive ties to the Middle East, including offices in Dubai, Riyadh and Tel-Aviv.

Officials from Goldman, BlackRock and Blackstone declined to comment. The White House did not return repeated requests for comment.

The Trump White House and its associates have close ties to Bahrain. Reuters previously reported that the administration was pursuing a nearly $5 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to island nation in the Gulf. The president’s outside lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, landed a security consulting contract with the country’s Ministry of Interior, The Daily Beast reported.

A team of White House officials led by Kushner has been attempting to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the negotiating table since the administration’s earliest days. Las month, the White House announced the Bahrain summit, which was described at the time as a chance for attendees to “galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement,” with a particular focus on Palestinians.

“I look forward to these important discussions about a vision that will offer Palestinians exciting new opportunities to realize their full potential,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the time. “This workshop will engage leaders from across the entire Middle East to promote economic growth and opportunity for the people in this important region.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian business executives are turning down invitations to the event, which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ripped.

“Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ will go to hell, as will the economic workshop in Bahrain that the Americans intend to hold and present illusions,” Abbas said last week.

Kushner, in a recent interview with Axios, fired back at the Palestinian government, and blamed the leadership for the loss of U.S. aid that was cut from the West Bank and Gaza.

“The actions we’ve taken were because America’s aid is not entitlement. Right, if we make certain decisions which we’re allowed to as a sovereign nation to respect the rights of another sovereign nation and we get criticized by that government, the response of this president is not to say, ‘Oh, let me give you more aid,'” Kushner said.

Representatives from wealthy Gulf states the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be attending. Officials from Qatar are set to take part as well.

Barrack, who was the chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee and is a grandson of Lebanese immigrants, has a long history of attempting to make inroads in the Middle East, particularly through advocating for business investments.

While Barrack is not running point on the Trump administration’s efforts, he is still deeply involved in the process. He authored a white paper for the administration titled “The Trump Middle East Marshall Plan,” which specifically mentions expanding U.S. and international business opportunities there as a way to unite the region.

“Generate USA economic stimulus and growth by expanding international opportunities for our domestic industries and service providers, thereby creating jobs, reducing our trade deficit and providing investment for research and development,” the proposal says.

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