Co-written by Sasha Toperich, Senior Fellow and Director of the Mediterranean Basin Initiative, Center for Transatlantic Relations SAIS at Johns Hopkins University
Rep. Fortenberry Introduced HR1221 to Foster Peace between the Israeli – Palestinian People
On February 27, 2017, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced HR 1221, seeking to establish an International Fund for Israeli - Palestinian Peace. This bipartisan Bill is co-sponsored by Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY), and is seeking the signatures of both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress interested in shaping a peaceful solution to a conflict fueling rising tensions in the Middle East.
The Alliance for Middle East Peace, The Organization of the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Council, and the Anti-Defamation League are already applauding the initiative. While creating such a different story in the hearts and minds of the the international community, Former Prime British Prime Minister Tony Blair endorsed the effort, comparing it to the International Irish Peace Fund that “helped build vital people-to-people contacts” and created conditions for a lasting peace in the region.
The proposed bill creates a bilateral board of advisors who will manage the expenditures of the fund in order to support economic, social, and cultural engagement, in which both Israeli and Palestinian people will participate. As Tzipi Livni says, “this will help create a culture of peace.”
The board will include recognized leaders appointed by the Palestinian Authority and Israeli government who will join members from donor countries, including two representatives from the US with each party from the United States Congress naming one. USAID will administer the fund and guide the board, and activities will be measured to assure economic and social development. The goal of the initiative will be to build trust and a spirit of shared possibility among neighbors, adjacent towns, and settlements.
The requested US investment is $50 million stemming from existing funds, and the overall effort is aimed to create conditions for a lasting peace and to support international leaders’ diplomatic efforts to reach a final political agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
The years long overdue visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the White House last week, signals a change in the administration’s overall Middle East policy as they are shaping up. President Trump suggested the Israel-Palestinian diplomatic initiative requires a “regional effort,” in which Egypt will also play a prominent role.
If the H.R. 1221 becomes law, this commitment to “soft power” can contribute a much needed boost to the administration’s Israeli – Palestinian upcoming peace effort and support platforms to bring Israeli and Palestinian people closer together.