It’s no secret in our circles that the last few years have represented a challenging time for Project Rozana, when looking to partner with the United States government on building solid relationships between Israelis and Palestinians.
But the incoming Joe Biden Administration has signalled its intention to put support for projects between Israelis and Palestinians back on the table.
The commitment of the US Government to encourage closer people-to-people relationships in health is a welcome outcome for Project Rozana.
The Trump Administration chose to close a variety of communication channels with Palestinian leaders and cancel long-standing funding opportunities for cooperative cross-border projects.
The tide began to turn near the end of 2020. The passage of the $250 million Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA), for which we extensively lobbied, together with our friends at ALLMEP, the Alliance for Middle East Peace, was a milestone.
This five-year initiative includes the People-to-People Partnership for Peace Fund, which will be led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It will be guided by a Congressionally-appointed advisory board, to provide funding to groups like Project Rozana and the dozens of other organizations that work in this space.
While this will likely take a year to 18 months to implement, this initiative could potentially include additional partners like the EU, the British Government and others.
The second part of MEPPA is the Joint Investment for Peace Initiative, which will provide investments in projects that contribute to the Palestinian private sector economy in the West Bank and Gaza, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises owned by Palestinians. This will increase economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
In parallel, newly elected U.S. president, Joe Biden, signalled an intention to re-engage with the Palestinian people and, among other steps, his administration immediately reopened funding for cross-border projects through the USAID Office Conflict Mitigation Management.
In the coming weeks we will be submitting an application to fund one of our critically important programs, similar to our recent submission for the EU Peace Initiative funding opportunity.
Although we are yet to finalize that program, it will most likely be one that already has support among our Israelis and Palestinians constituents.
It also heartening to know that the funding to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network is being reinstated, especially since we work so closely with their member institutions and know from up close the life-saving work they carry out every day.
The conventional wisdom is that the time is not ripe for a bold Israel-Palestine diplomatic peace initiative. It’s also evident that the Biden administration has other, more urgent Middle East priorities.
This makes it all the more important that the U.S. Government has placed a high priority on investing in people-to-people efforts to build a constituency for peace.
This will, in turn, allow us to leverage the groundwork we have laid in recent years and increase our impact where it matters.
Kenneth Bob, Chair Project Rozana USA