Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ever Hear of the "U.S.-Palestinian Partnership"?



The U.S.-Palestinian Partnership was launched on December 3rd in 2007. It brings together the private sector, civic leaders, the United States Government and the Palestinian Authority to create educational and economic opportunities for Palestinian youth, furthering progress toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians. As one component of the initiative, the United States plans to refurbish three youth centers in Nablus, in Hebron and in Ramallah. To support this effort, USAID will work in tandem with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to build upon existing youth training and job programs. USAID is also working to support the partnership's efforts to promote economic growth and new employment. These efforts will have a direct and meaningful impact on the lives of Palestinians. This initiative is the latest in a series of successful collaborations between the United States and the private sector. In fact, in 2001, USAID has cultivated more than 600 public-private partnerships worldwide with more than 1,700 partners to leverage an additional $5.8 billion of U.S. -- from its investment of $2.1 billion in public funds.

During a recent trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank, members of this initiative identified specific needs the partnership should address. They have discussed with the Secretary ways that the United States Government, the Aspen Institute, the co-chairs of this initiative and other partners can leverage our resources to create opportunities for Palestinians. In the coming months, we look forward to working with our dedicated co-chairs, with U.S. and Palestinian business communities and others. And I encourage private sector partners to become involved and to be supportive of this very important initiative.

...One thing we heard from the Secretary is she is deeply committed to this. This was her idea at the very beginning. She talked to the President about it. Karen Hughes was involved. But she had met with both the economic leaders in the Palestinian territories and with Minister Tahani Abu Daqqa, who you know is the Minister of Youth in the territories, and they decided that as part of a peace process, as part of the Annapolis process, having economic and educational opportunities was key.

We all just went on over there. We met with Minister Abu Daqqa and many other ministers, as well as the Israeli leaders. We went to Bethlehem and Ramallah and Hebron and saw the various things we were going to do. We picked some of the sites where we’re going to be working with USAID, also with OPIC, where, as some of you know, we launched earlier on a small business loan fund which gives loans of $25,000 to $200,000 to Palestinian businesses in the West Bank. Those loans are now going out the door. We have six Palestinian banks as our partner. They’re going out the door to things like taxicab companies, garment manufacturers. Bill Bernhardt, who is a chairman of that initiative and was chairman of the Aspen Institute, is in Ramallah today with Rob Mosbacher, I think of OPIC and others, doing that.

So we’ve got a lot underway, and of course, with George Laudato when we traveled to the region, we saw so much about what USAID is doing in that region. So first of all, we’ll have the youth centers. We also are working on trying to get a call center developed or maybe two call centers, one in East Jerusalem and one in Ramallah. That’s a nice, easy business you can set up quite quickly. We’re hoping, too, to find ways to help with housing, maybe a mortgage guarantee fund or something like that. We’re also working very closely with Tony Blair’s group because Tony Blair is trying to work out these industrial zones. Our job would be to try to make sure American companies come into those industrial zones.

I think that it’s officially was announced at Ziad’s meeting about an hour ago – and at the moment, Salam Fayyad is upstairs meeting with the Secretary – will tell her – but you all might as well know it before she does, no, she doesn’t – that it’ll be the May 8th and 9th, we’re going to have our business development conference. So we’re going to try to urge -- and maybe you can, you know, describe it so that American business leaders will say, "I should go to Bethlehem. I should be part of this business development conference."

And he's so appreciative:-

Palestinian Leader Fayyad Praises United States for Major Funding
Palestinians seek an open, democratic state at peace

Creation of a Palestinian state requires parallel progress on multiple tracks –- governance, security and economics. Success depends on a serious and sustained commitment by the Palestinians and Israelis, the United States, the Quartet, the Arab countries and the broader international community, says Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

"The state we seek is one that must be open and democratic, based on the rule of law, respect for human rights, cultural sensitivity and religious tolerance," Fayyad says.

"In short, we will build a state that all Palestinians can be proud of, and my government will lead by example."

The U.S. Congress recently appropriated $218 million of $555 million pledged by the United States in December 2007 for Palestinian economic and other reforms. Fayyad, speaking before Arab Americans, journalists and diplomats at the National Press Club in Washington February 11, said the funds will be deposited into a single treasury account.

"This is a major vote of confidence. One that, indeed, we are proud of, and one that is likely to encourage other donors to follow suit," he said.

Fayyad said the United States has been instrumental in working for the creation of a Palestinian state, especially with the November 2007 Annapolis Conference that succeeded in restarting direct talks between the Palestinians and Israelis with a strong U.S. presence.

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