Ambassador Friedman praises USAID-funded interfaith school Hand in Hand

The Twitter comments were mixed with overwhelming support for the encouraging interfaith activities with others upset at the halted funding for Palestinian programs.

March 13, 2019 12:41
2 minute read.
David Freidman

David Friedman. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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US Ambassador David M. Friedman visited Jerusalem's interfaith 'Hand in Hand' school on Tuesday, a mixed Jewish and Arab school focused on building a shared society.

The school continues to receive USAID funding, despite a USAID funding cut for all programs in the West Bank and Gaza. Funding for food aid, infrastructure funds and peace-building programs was officially halted as of February 1. Peace initiatives between Israelis and Israeli Arabs have maintained their funding, however, organizations like Kids 4 Peace, a Jerusalem based interfaith program, has still spoken out against the effects of the funding cut.

"A great way forward!" Friedman tweeted after the visit. "Loved the 'Hand in Hand' school supported by USAID, where all faiths and backgrounds study together with mutual respect, retaining their individual culture and heritage."

The Twitter comments were mixed as some offered support for the encouraging interfaith activities while others expressed concern regarding the halted funding for Palestinian programs.

Funding cuts within the Palestinian Authority occurred in order to prevent the PA from being tried for terrorism in the US as a result of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act. The legislation, which passed unanimously by the House and Senate last year, left the PA open to terror-related lawsuits in the US courts if it accepts American financial assistance.

“This aid was cut (not just suspended) at the PA’s request because they didn’t want to be subject to US courts which would require them to pay US citizens killed by Palestinian terrorists when the PA was found guilty,” US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt tweeted in January. 

“All USAID assistance in the West Bank and Gaza has ceased,” Greenblatt told Reuters then.

USAID received $364 million from the United States in 2017, according to Reuters.

The program known as the Conflict Management and Mitigation Program received a total of $26 million annually from Congress and was established in 2004 by Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vermont). The United States cut $10 million of foreign aid money that was supporting coexistence programs between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Senator Leahy regards the decision to cut off funding for the West Bank and Gaza as a sign that this White House has failed at diplomacy,” said Tim Rieser, foreign policy aide to Leahy. “This is not a partisan view. It’s the view of those who recognize that you don’t advance the cause of peace by cutting off programs that are designed to promote tolerance, understanding and address shared problems.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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