Samantha Power: It's Become Controversial to Provide Life-saving Aid to Palestinians

'For decades there has been a broad consensus – both in Israel and the United States – that investments in the health and wellbeing of Palestinians benefits everyone, including Israelis,' says USAID chief

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
The shuttered headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City during a general strike of employees in UNRWA institutions, in November.
The shuttered headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City during a general strike of employees in UNRWA institutions, in November.Credit: MOHAMMED ABED - AFP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON – Senior Biden administration officials on Sunday praised the crucial role of civil society groups in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, while decrying the politicization of U.S. aid to the Palestinians.

United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides addressed the winter gala for the Alliance for Middle East Peace – an umbrella organization of some 150 groups working in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"For decades there has been a broad consensus – both in Israel and the United States – that investments in the health and wellbeing of Palestinians benefits everyone, including Israelis," Power said. "That investing in a girl's education is both righteous and necessary, regardless of which side of a line it occurs on. That a lack of opportunity only fuels distrust and alienation. Yet today, it has become controversial to provide life-saving aid to the Palestinian people and invest in their development."

In 2018, former U.S. President Donald Trump's administration cut the entire U.S. aid budget to UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of assisting Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in April that the United States would be restoring this aid, including $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza. Since then, though, Senate Republicans blocked the funds for several months. The money has since been released in intervals over the year, with the specific caveat that it would not be used to fund terror.

The USAID chief noted that "peace is not some destination at which we arrive in the future. Peace is a process of building understanding and connection between peoples. A process that bit by bit, amid steps forward and setbacks, builds a foundation for reconciliation and harmony."

Power praised investments that enhance interfaith dialogue, empower women to take on leadership roles in peace talks and conflict prevention, and address transnational threats such as extremism and pandemics.

"That's what makes this gathering and this community so special, a recognition that your neighbor's ability to live in peace, free from fear of violence or persecution, to have clean water and basic necessities to access reliable health services and provide for their family is inextricably linked to your own," she said.

Power also praised ALLMEP's role in advocating for the Nita Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, saying that the organization's efforts empowered USAID and the Development Finance Corporation to commit $250 million over the next five years to expand “people-to-people” Israeli and Palestinian grassroots programs, as well as joint economic ventures that could help shore up the Palestinian economy.

Nides, meanwhile, said his business background, combined with his experiences at the State Department, informs his belief that a "critical triangle of civil society, business and government that work in partnership to build and maintain a democracy and equitable societies, including for the most vulnerable."

The ambassador quoted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's imperative that governments cannot do this work alone, but that "community groups, faith groups, human rights defenders, journalists and others are critical at the progress that we all want to see.

"That is why we support initiatives that build on all three sides of the triangle," Nides added: "Increase the capacity of civil society organizations, empower the private sector to increase business opportunities, and on the diplomacy side, help create conditions for peace through a negotiated two-state solution."

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments