World Politics

'I'll invest in it': Anthony Scaramucci defends Jared Kushner's Middle East peace plan

Key Points
  • Jared Kushner presented a $50 billion investment plan for economic growth and peace in the Middle East on Tuesday.
  • No Israeli or Palestinian officials are at the Bahrain 'Peace to Prosperity' workshop
  • Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci and Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman have supported the plan, however.
Anthony Scaramucci, was Donald Trump's White House communications director briefly in 2017.
AFP Contributor | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has presented a $50 billion investment plan for economic growth and peace in the Middle East that has been greeted with skepticism, but not in all quarters.

"We will definitely be investors in this, investors in the region," former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci told CNBC's Hadley Gamble in Manama, Bahrain, Wednesday.

Scaramucci, who is also the founder of global investment firm Skybridge Capital, said his investment would "probably be more on the fixed income side," adding that he was "very excited about it."

Kushner, who is also a senior advisor for the White House, kicked off a U.S.-led two-day "Peace to Prosperity" workshop in Bahrain aimed at fostering Arab-Israeli peace and economic development by presenting an investment plan for the region.

There is little mention of the many significant hurdles to economic growth — namely, the political impasse between Israel and Palestine. No mention is made in the peace plan of the thorny issue of Palestinian statehood, for example.

But the proposal envisages the creation of a $50 billion investment fund to boost jobs and growth in Palestine and its neighboring economies. It foresees 179 infrastructure and business projects in the region, including a $5 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza. More than half of the $50 billion proposed — envisaged as loans, grants and private investment — would be spent in Palestine over the next 10 years.

Jared Kushner's plan holds a lot of economic opportunity, Scaramucci says

"Talking to some of the White House people last night that are close personal friends, if you think the details are great on the economic side (of the plan), wait 'til you see the unveiling of the political plan," Scaramucci told CNBC, adding that he was yet to personally see the political proposals.

"My friends inside the White House are telling me that the political plan is equally detailed and in-depth and there's a lot of stuff in there for the Palestinians. I know the president very well, and he put some chips on the table for the Israelis like the movement of the (U.S.) embassy to Jerusalem … But he's going to want to make sure that the Palestinians win at the table as well."

No officials from either the Palestinian or Israeli government are attending the summit; Palestinian officials boycotted the summit and the U.S. did not then invite Israeli government officials for balance. The White House has yet to present its plans for a political solution to the long-running conflict between Israel and Palestine — these are expected later this year.

Scaramucci, who was fired from his role as White House communications director after just 10 days in the role in 2017, asked people to "dial down elements of their cynicism," and he praised Trump's son-in-law Kushner for the plan.

"I want people to step back and be a little less cynical. Look at the details in the plan," he said.

'Very realistic'

Other delegates at the summit — with guests ranging from the International Monetary Fund's Managing Director Christine Lagarde to Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman — have defended Kushner's proposals.

Speaking at the summit Tuesday, Schwarzman said Kushner's plans for Palestine were "not unachievable" or even that "financially ambitious."

"I think people from the West would be very cautious from the beginning and, as they see it roll out, they would come in if the return is there," he said, adding that inspirational leadership could help Palestine's economy, despite its lack of natural resources like other nations in the Middle East.

Other delegates shared his optimism that Kushner's "economy first" approach could work. "It was a very realistic discussion," Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Yale School of Management senior associate dean for leadership studies, told CNBC's Hadley Gamble earlier Wednesday.

"I think he was trying to set expectations and distancing it — without naming names — from past initiatives under Clinton and Bush and Obama administrations," he said. Sonnenfeld said that focusing on an economic plan could be a different way to achieve peace.

"Every one of those other failed initiatives had the peace plan and what happens? Everyone gets distracted by what's wrong, and there's always going to be an unhappy party with the peace plan, and they don't even focus on the economic plan. This one (Kushner's plan) is a much better economic plan and for any change to happen you always have to have some vision," he said.

Investcorp's Co-CEO Hazem Ben-Gacem said he was surprised by "the depth and breadth" of investors that had attended the Bahrain summit.

"It is terrific for this forum to showcase what could be done in that part of the world to a global investor base who perhaps won't (otherwise) have the chance to learn about Palestine," he told CNBC's Hadley Gamble.

Palestine could be a good base for trade: Investcorp co-CEO

"When we start to talk about a $50 billion commitment or investment for Palestine, that gets a lot of attention. But also it sends a message of trust and confidence of what Palestine could become in the future. As a private investor that is what we like to hear and I hope we can play an active role in that journey."

Presenting the plan in Manama Tuesday, Kushner said that economic growth went hand-in-hand with peace.

"Economic growth and prosperity for the Palestinian people are not possible without an enduring and fair political solution to the conflict. One that guarantees Israel's security and respects the dignity of the Palestinian people. However today is not about the political issues," he said.

"My direct message to the Palestinian people is that despite what those who have let you down in the past tell you, President Trump and America have not given up on you. This workshop is for you."