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June 14, 2019     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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June 14, 2019
 

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 14, 2019 peace By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)--An array of pro-Israel groups are backing a bipartisan bill that would seed investment in the Palestinian areas and restore funding to peace dialogue programming that the Trump administration removed as a punitive measure against the Palestinians. The bill reads in part as a rebuke to the administra- tion for ending funding for dialogue groups last year. It also reinforces backing for a two-state solution at a time when the Trump administra- tion and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are playing down the prospect of Palestinian statehood. ThebillannouncedWednes- day has drawn support from groups that are often at odds over peace policy, including center-right groups like the American Israel PublicAffairs Committee and the Jewish Federations of NorthAmerica and its Israel advocacy affili- ate, the Israel Action Network; liberal groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now; and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella for Jew- ish public policy groups. Leading its introduction are Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y a pro-Israel stalwart who chairs the powerful U.S. House of Representatives Appropria- tions Committee, and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb a member of the committee. In the Senate, it is being backed by Sens. Lindsey Gra- ham, R-S.C who chairs the foreign operations subcommit- tee of the Appropriations Com- mittee, along with Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Col Tim Kaine, D-Va and Chris Coons, D-Del. The bill, which would pro- vide $50 million annually for five years for a "Partnership Fund for Peace," ostensibly fits in with the peace push spear- headed by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, that emphasizes investment. Kushner is convening a summit later this month in Bahrain to include in- vestment by Arab states in Palestinian economic devel- opment. "Although economic devel- opment is an important tool for stabilizing conflict-prone settings and establishing con- nections between communi- ties, economic development by itself will not lead to last- ing peace," the bill says in its preamble. "People-to-people peacebuilding programs fur- ther advance reconciliation efforts by promoting greater understanding, mutual trust, and cooperation between communities." The bill also asserts, "It is the sense of Congress that building a viable Palestinian economy is central to the ef- fort to preserve the possibility of a 2-state solution." Lobbying for the bill was spearheaded by the Alliance JUST GOT Non-Stop Ftights from Ortando to Tet Aviv Jury-August for Middle East Peace, an umbrella for dozens of Israeli- Palestinian dialogue groups and programs, including educational programs like Givat Haviva, Hand in Hand and Neveh Shalom. ALLMEP swung into action last year af- ter the Trump administration slashed the $10 million these groups get annually as part of the hundreds of millions it was ending in assistance to the Palestinians. "At a moment when impor- tant norms around resolution of this conflict are being eroded, and dehumanizing and violent attitudes--most markedly among the young-- are growing, this is a critical 'win' for our community, and its collective mission to Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/ LightRocket via Getty Images Rep. Nita Lowey, seen speaking at the AIPAC con- ference in Washington, D.C March 25, 2019, is leading the charge for a bill to restore funding to peace dialogue programming. counter such trends," John Lyndon, ALLMEP's incoming executive director, said in a statement Wednesday. The Trump administra- tion cut the assistance in part because the Palestinian Authority refused to end subsidies to the families of Palestinians jailed or killed for attacks on Israel is, but also because Palestinian leaders opted out of peace talks after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Itwas never made clear why the Trump administration ended the relatively small amount of funding for dia- logue groups, which did not reach the Palestinian Author- ity. Trump administration in- siders have suggested that the programs never proved their efficacy, because there was no Israeli-Palestinian peace. Supporters say the programs aim to tamp down tensions and create opportunities for Israeli-Palestinian interac- tion and leave peace-making to diplomats. Israel's right-wing pri- oritizes interactions with Palestinian individuals over those associatedwith dialogue groups, saying the latter reinforce a sense of Palestin- ian national identity at the expense of peace-making. Lowey in her release said that one of the purposes of the fund was to lay the ground- work for a two -state outcome. "Time and time again, Congress has reiterated its support for a two-state solu- tion that leads to two states for two peoples," she said. "To aid the pursuit of this dream, this bipartisan legislation would stimulate economic development and build com- munity 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." Right-wing figures in Israel have lambasted some of the groups under the ALLMEP umbrella for bringing to- gether former fighters on both sides, and families of victims of violence on both sides, saying it creates a false equivalence between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian ter- rorists.