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Lowey and Fortenberry Discuss Middle East Partnership for Peace Act
By Stephen E. Lipken
On Monday, September 21st, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) discussed their virtual bi-partisan conversation on the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, an initiative aimed at building new partnerships between Israeli and Palestinian business leaders and civil society organizations in a Zoom meeting, sponsored in part by AJC Advocacy Anywhere and Jewish Insider.
The Program was moderated by Julie Rayman, AJC Deputy Director of Policy and Diplomatic Affairs. “This legislation is extremely important to AJC…,” Rayman began. “Throughout our history AJC has worked to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinian groups, believing that cooperation is essential to regional security and a two-state solution.”
“We have established several business and economic development Task Forces to improve the West Bank economy and to improve Israeli-Palestinian business cooperation.”
Rayman asked Appropriations Committee member Fortenberry, “What was the genesis for the Middle East Partners in Peace Act?” Fortenberry replied, “[Regarding] a road map to peace, before there is a road there has to a foundation to the road, pre-conditions that have to be laid down which create the means for trust, interactivity, interdependence, dialogue…,” Fortenberry replied, pointing to new tools, particularly Development Finance to sustain health and well-being for all people. He recommended changing Development Finance to Development Diplomacy to sustain human relationships rather than merely business transactions.
“I have often said that I could not leave Congress until peace was achieved between Israel and the Palestinians,” Appropriations Chair Lowey stressed. “It really breaks my heart to be leaving at a time when we are nowhere close to that reality. That is why it is so important for me to include the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act of 2020 in the FY 2021 State and Foreign Appropriations Bill which passed the House this summer.
“The legislation will authorize $50 million dollars for each of the five Fiscal Years to be divided between US Agency for International Development (USAID) and DF Corporation with a 13-member advisory board appointed by Congress to make recommendations to USAID.”
Fortenberry concluded that rather than funding huge infrastructure projects, DFC will advocate partnerships between agriculture and small business, engaging people beyond transaction levels to promote goodwill and harmony.