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Activists, including Israelis and Palestinians, take part in a demonstration in support of peace near Jericho.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Congress introduces bill to fund Israeli-Palestinian peace projects
By YVETTE J. DEANE
06/07/2019
“To aid the pursuit of this dream, this bipartisan legislation would stimulate economic development and build community ties between Israelis and Palestinians."
Six members of Congress introduced legislation on Wednesday that could help change the reality on the ground for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
 
Representatives Nita Lowey and Jeff Fortenberry, and senators Chris Coons, Lindsey Graham, Tim Kaine and Cory Gardner introduced the Partnership Fund for Peace Act of 2019, which would create a fund to facilitate people-to-people interactions and joint economic ventures between Israelis, Palestinians and Americans.
 
Amid funding cuts to the Palestinian Authority in January, the Conflict Management and Mitigation Program, which financially supports coexistence programs between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, lost all of its funding for the programs. Currently it only supports funds for coexistence programs between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis.
 
“Time and time again, Congress has reiterated its support for a two-state solution that leads to two states for two peoples,” Lowey said. “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.”
 
The initiative is a bipartisan bill that the representatives said they believe could create the necessary conditions to eventually support a two-state solution. The bill argues that by building up the economic situation for Palestinians as well as creating engagement between the two groups of people, the US will help lay the groundwork for peace.
 
Currently the unemployment rate in Gaza is 53.7%, and 18% in the West Bank.
 
“We often hear about the ‘road map for peace in the Middle East,’” Fortenberry said. “The challenge is laying the proper foundation for the road. Building on previous US efforts at reconciliation, this bipartisan bill is a genuine attempt by the United States to regenerate our historic role in finding creative and imaginative pathways to secure a sustainable peace. This starts by recreating new and better economic and interpersonal linkages for prosperity and interconnectedness between the region’s peoples.”
 
The fund will consist of $50,000,000 a year for five fiscal years.
 
“I am pleased to re-introduce this bipartisan, bicameral bill to establish a Partnership Fund for Peace to encourage investment in Palestinian entrepreneurs and strengthen ties between Palestinians, Israelis and Americans,” Coons said. “Job creation is the best way to turn people away from violence. This legislation will promote small businesses and economic growth in the Palestinian territories, and foster cooperation and reconciliation in the Middle East. I look forward to working with my Senate and House colleagues to advance this important legislation.”
 
“Creating more opportunities for engagement between Palestinians and Israelis is essential to promoting a peaceful and prosperous future in the region,” Kaine reiterated. “Our legislation recognizes that achieving peace isn’t possible without cooperation and people-to-people dialogue. This is about laying the groundwork for reconciliation and a lasting resolution.”
 
Funding cuts within the Palestinian Authority were intended to prevent the PA from being tried for terrorism in the US as a result of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act. The legislation, which was 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 for 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.
 
USAID received $364 million from the United States in 2017, according to Reuters.
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