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Bipartisan bill complements Kushner’s plan to try to buy off Palestinians

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On Wednesday, six members of Congress introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill to create a $50 million annual fund to “facilitate and finance joint economic ventures and people-to-people exchanges between Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans,” according to a press release.

The bill, known as the Partnership Fund for Peace Act of 2019 (S.1727 and H.R.3104), is sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).

The bill would establish a five-person board of governors, appointed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to dole out grants to Palestinian entrepreneurs and companies partnering with Israeli and US counterparts to create private sector jobs. The board would also fund dialogue and coexistence projects run by Israeli and Palestinian organizations.

In its most benign interpretation, this bill could be seen by well-intentioned members of Congress as a last-ditch attempt to revive the moribund prospects for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and perhaps even as a foil to the Trump administration’s “deal of the century,” which appears in all likelihood to preclude the possibility of Palestinian statehood.

Job Creation vs. Sovereignty

Remarks from supporting members of Congress make the likely true intentions of the bill evident.

In his remarks on the bill, Chris Coons maintained that “job creation is the best way to turn people away from violence,” while Lindsey Graham stated that “creating economic opportunities for the Palestinian people outside of the old funding construct is a great way to promote economic opportunity to people who have been systemically abused by their leadership for decades.” Jeff Fortenberry hinted at a similar line of thinking when he said, “We often hear about the ‘the road map for peace in the Middle East. The challenge is laying the proper foundation for the road…this bipartisan bill is a genuine attempt by the United States to regenerate our historic role in finding creative and imaginative pathways to secure a sustainable peace.”

This discourse dovetails neatly with the Trump administration’s repeated claims that Palestinians are to blame for Israel’s oppression and that the way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue is to provide Palestinians with economic development in lieu of their political rights.

Indeed, the timing of the introduction of the bill seems designed to reinforce the Trump administration’s plans to convene (without Palestinian participation) a two-day “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in the repressive Kingdom of Bahrain later this month.

The gathering is being spearheaded by presidential adviser and “deal of the century” point person Jared Kushner, who recently opined that Palestinians are not yet “capable of governing” themselves and “want the opportunity to pay their mortgage” more than they want freedom from Israeli military occupation.

Although the text of the Partnership Fund for Peace Act does not overtly reek of this rank racism and paternalism, more than a whiff of it can be detected through its more moderately couched language.

“Building a viable Palestinian economy is central to the effort to preserve the possibility of a 2-state solution,” according to the bill, which fails to mention how Israel’s continued illegal colonization of the West Bank has rendered that option moot.

A push for economic normalization

Congressional funding for joint economic partnerships and people-to-people projects will “increase the bonds of friendship and understanding between the people living in the Palestinian territories and the people of the United States and Israel,” the bill states, while remaining mum on the subject of Israel’s separate-and-unequal rule over the Palestinian people, supported by the United States diplomatically and financially, which would remain intact even if the bill were to become law.

And while one of the declared objectives of the fund is “to promote the private sector in the Palestinian territories,” this comes with strings attached for Palestinian entrepreneurs and companies. In order to access the fund, they must partner with Israeli or US companies, an induced economic normalization.

The entire premise of the bill—that Israeli-Palestinian peace can be facilitated if Palestinians only had more jobs or if Palestinians only interacted more with Israelis and talked things out—is not only an obtusely apolitical understanding of the issue. It is also an approach which has already served as a feature of US policy throughout the interminable quarter-century-long “peace process” and which has failed to have any discernible impact on the prospects for peace.

Since 2004, the now-defunct USAID Mission to the West Bank and Gaza Strip partnered with the US Embassy to Israel to fund 136 people-to-people projects. And beginning in the 1990s, the Clinton administration established “qualifying industrial zones” (QIZ’s) in Arab countries to promote both Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli joint economic ventures. Goods manufactured with mandatory Israeli inputs in QIZ’s are eligible for duty-free entrance into the United States.

Next steps

The bipartisan nature of the bill, along with the sponsorship of Members of Congress who are well-placed to advance this legislation, makes its passage a distinct possibility. All four Senators sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, and all except Coons are on its Near East subcommittee.

Lowey is chair both of the Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee with jurisdiction over foreign aid, while Fortenberry is an influential member of that same subcommittee.

In addition, Graham is one of the president’s strongest allies in the Senate, making it likely that the legislation enjoys the support of, or at least acquiescence from, the Trump administration.

The bill already boasts the support of a range of mainstream and liberal Zionist groups, including AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, Americans for Peace Now, ADL, and J Street, according to its authors. If any combination of these organizations were to really throw their lobbying weight behind this bill, then its likelihood of passing would greatly increase.

Josh Ruebner

Josh Ruebner is Senior Principal at Progress Up Consulting and author of Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State? and Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Verso Books).

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21 Responses

  1. just on June 7, 2019, 1:19 pm

    “In his remarks on the bill, Chris Coons maintained that “job creation is the best way to turn people away from violence,” while Lindsey Graham stated that “creating economic opportunities for the Palestinian people outside of the old funding construct is a great way to promote economic opportunity to people who have been systemically abused by their leadership for decades.” ”

    “The best way to turn people away from violence”?

    What, are these dollars going to make Israel stop their daily violence toward Palestinians?
    “creating economic opportunities for the Palestinian people outside of the old funding construct is a great way to promote economic opportunity to people who have been systemically abused by their leadership for decades.” ”

    It’s Israel that has “systematically abused” the Palestinian people for “decades”.

    Throwing money at the Palestinians is not going to end the brutal Occupation nor is it going to end Israeli violence, theft, and Apartheid. It’s a bandaid to make the Congress feel better. That AIPAC, AJC, ADL, etc. support it should give everyone the willies. It’s another attempted swindle of the Palestinians, and does not come close to addressing the core issues. How many of the sponsors are pro- Palestinian and really work to acknowledge all that they have endured and restore all that they are due~ and then some? How many are ardently pro- Israel? I think I know~ it’s a stupid question.

    One more thing. These millions (and more) should have been used to repair Gaza after US weapons, etc. were deployed again and again by Israel with the blessing and help of the US. Israel should already pay reparations and lift the siege/Occupation.

    Thanks, Josh.

    • Misterioso on June 8, 2019, 10:41 am

      “Kushner’s plan to try to buy off Palestinians” is going nowhere other than history’s junk file.

    • LiberatePalestine on June 10, 2019, 3:08 am

      No Palestinian will be stupid enough to fall for that «plan», which is just the same old Zionist oppression in a slightly modified wrapper.

  2. JWalters on June 7, 2019, 6:23 pm

    Americans need Congress to pass a Protection Against False Accusations of Anti-Semitism Act – PAFAASA.

    The purpose of the bill would be to protect Americans from the campaign of false accusations that are being used to stifle criticism of Israel throughout the western democracies.

    A falsely accused person would be able to sue their accuser, and the accuser would be required to justify their accusation with solid evidence.

    If the alleged “anti-Semite” can provide clear factual evidence supporting their alleged “anti-Semitic” statements, then anti-Semitic bias cannot be concluded, and the falsely accused person will win the lawsuit. The false accuser will have to pay reasonable damages.

    A law is justified because these false claims of anti-Semitism are not frivolous. They are a central tactic of war profiteers being used to destroy democracies around the world.

    • LiberatePalestine on June 10, 2019, 8:50 am

      Suing in defamation is rarely worth while. The damages from a typical irresponsible Zionist allegation of «anti-Semitism» are likely to be low. In some cases, however, suing might make sense. And there’s no need for a special statute.

      • JWalters on June 10, 2019, 10:21 pm

        I appreciate your points. I’m thinking of a court trial with high visibility, putting these issues under a spotlight the MSM cannot ignore. The new laws being put in place by the Israelis warrant corresponding laws for defense and offense. The argument in Congress over such a law would be worth the effort, it seems to me.

      • JWalters on June 11, 2019, 6:23 pm

        Also, I don’t want Israelis to claim that bringing up anti-Israel facts is evidence of anti-Semitism. I want the law to state explicitly that facts supporting an anti-Israel position are evidence AGAINST anti-Semitic bias. Further, that such facts are definitive, forcing a ruling against the accusation of anti-Semitism.

  3. Kay24 on June 8, 2019, 6:27 am

    Every time the Palestinians rebuild, or have facilities built by international entities, the occupiers find unacceptable reasons to bomb it. How many Mosques? Schools? homes, UN shelters, power stations, and other structures have been bombed? Can Slimy Jared, Lindsay Graham, and these Netanyahu fans, give the world the assurance it will never happen again?
    End the damn occupation, stop stealing lands, and end the killing of helpless civilians, first.

    How can we forgot:

    “United Nations officials described the killing of sleeping children as a disgrace to the world and accused Israel of a serious violation of international law after a school in Gaza being used to shelter Palestinian families was shelled on Wednesday.

    At least 15 people, mostly children and women, died when the school in Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by five shells during a night of relentless bombardment across Gaza. More than 100 people were injured.

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said the attack was “outrageous and unjustifiable” and demanded “accountability and justice”. The UN said its officials had repeatedly given details of the school and its refugee population to Israel.”

    The Arab nations are now in bed with the occupier, it seems the Palestinians do not matter to them.

  4. Elizabeth Block on June 8, 2019, 8:25 am

    “In order to access the fund, they must partner with Israeli or US companies.”
    I was expecting something like that. And – of course – it’s not going to work. The Israelis won’t allow it to work. See James Zogby’s piece, “Why the US ‘workshop’ for Palestinians in Bahrain will fail,” in Mondoweiss a few days ago.

    • Vera Gottlieb on June 9, 2019, 10:06 am

      israel will do everything in it’s power to see that no agreement will ever be reached with Palestinians. On the other hand, Palestinians aren’t nearly as dumb as israelis would like to think.

  5. mondonut on June 8, 2019, 3:35 pm

    OMG!!! This is terrible. Jobs! Cooperation! Alternatives to lives of violence! Meeting and speaking with Israelis! And Americans!

    The horror! The horror!

  6. CigarGod on June 9, 2019, 9:39 am

    Jared to his father in law:
    “Hey Dad, here’s a neat way to legalize grabbing them by the pussy. Just leave $20 bucks on the nightstand.”

  7. Vera Gottlieb on June 9, 2019, 9:56 am

    I would think that by now Palestinians would know, or should, that one doesn’t do business with the Yanks…unless you want your fingers severly burnt. Dishonesty flows through America’s veins.

    • LiberatePalestine on June 9, 2019, 11:56 am

      The Palestinians, like most other people, can also see right through the US’s rhetoric about «freedom» and «human rights». If the US gave a tinker’s damn about those, it wouldn’t have armed and backed the Zionist entity for seventy years.

      I’m going to bet that Uncle Scam’s $50 million in blood-money will go entirely unused.

      • CigarGod on June 9, 2019, 2:05 pm

        Not necessarily.
        1. Palestinian workers make the toilet seat and sell it to their american and israeli partners for $5.
        2. The partners sell it back to the Palestinians for $5000, until the $50 million is gone.

      • annie on June 9, 2019, 3:55 pm

        this reminds me of something james zogby recently wrote about a business summit in ’94 “Why the US ‘workshop’ for Palestinians in Bahrain will fail”

        Our efforts were encouraged by a World Bank study which argued that with investment and access to external markets the Palestinian economy was ready to take off. The US had already pledged $150 million a year for five years to support the Palestinians, with other nations following suit.

        My panel featured three Palestinian ministers – all with economic portfolios – who laid out in some detail what they felt was needed to help them grow. At the end of the session, I was approached by a young American, who asked excitedly if I would introduce him to the Palestinian ministers. He told me that he had just been awarded a USAID grant for around $10 million to help train Palestinians in entrepreneurial skills. When I relayed his request to the Palestinians, they were furious. One said to me, “No one consulted us as to what we needed. Our people don’t need to be trained on how to do business. We need capital to be invested in our small business sector and we need the freedom to do business.” I experienced variations of this same frustration – with supply-driven instead of demand-driven aid – throughout my tenure at BfP.

        In our first year, we brought two delegations of American business leaders to meet with Palestinians to discuss investment and partnership possibilities. The projects that were hatched during our first visit were ultimately aborted when the American side realized that they could not freely import raw materials and export finished products without securing either an Israeli partner (which added unacceptable costs) or Israeli permission (which was not forthcoming). As I expressed it then, “We had the horses at the gate, but the gate never opened.”

        iow, everything went through, and needed the approval of, Israelis, who if course shared in, and controlled, the profits.

      • LiberatePalestine on June 9, 2019, 5:31 pm

        Astounding. Someone who didn’t even know a Palestinian, and who apparently wasn’t aware that the Zionists disrupted both imports and exports by Palestinians, was able to get a $10 million grant from Uncle Sugar for teaching entrepreneurial skills to Palestinians.

        The farmers whose olive groves are stolen or razed, the businesspeople blocked from exporting their goods and services, and the millions stuck behind the Apartheid Wall all need something a damn sight more concrete than «entrepreneurial skills» taught in English by an ignorant Yankee interloper with a fat cheque from the Zionist entity’s imperialist puppeteer.

  8. Eva Smagacz on June 13, 2019, 12:37 pm

    Meet Tuvia Tenenbom:

    “The story of the suffering Palestinian is bull shit”

    This is dripping with racism:

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