In the Fall, we wrote about being deeply troubled by the U.S. Administration’s decision to end the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding for cross-border and people-to-people programs. We believe these programs build trust between Israelis and Palestinians, and undermining this support will hurt both the Palestinian people and the prospects for peace. The US administration has indicated that its peace plan will contain financial aid to the Palestinians, but the rollout of the plan has been delayed several times. Fortunately, the need to restore critical co-existence funding has been recognized by Congress, and we are excited to learn that significant legislative progress is being made around the issue.
In a rare bipartisan effort, Senators and Representatives introduced a bill this past Wednesday that would allocate 50 million dollars to create new fund for economic development and Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation projects. We are grateful to Senators Chris Coons (CT), Lindsey Graham (SC), Tim Kaine (VA), Cory Gardner (CO) and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1) and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (NY-17) for their leadership on this effort.
Entitled, “The Partnership Fund for Peace” the legislation will create “joint economic development and finance ventures between Palestinian entrepreneurs and companies and those in the United States and Israel to improve economic cooperation and people-to-people peace-building programs, and to further shared community building, peaceful coexistence, dialogue, and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.” The bill was originally introduced in October 2018, and this updated version lays out a detailed plan for how the fund will function. It designates the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department to oversee its implementation. We thank our friends at the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) for their efforts in advancing this important legislation. The bill was also supported by leading Jewish-American organizations such as the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.
In the official press release for the bill, Representative Nita Lowey (NY-17) expressed her support, saying, “Time and time again, Congress has reiterated its support for a two-state solution that leads to two states for two peoples. To aid the pursuit of this dream, this bipartisan legislation would stimulate economic development and build community ties between Israelis and Palestinians. There are no shortcuts to peace, and this bill lays the foundation for this generation and those to come to engage in the hard work of peace-building.”