The coronavirus relief bill released Monday includes $250 million in investment aid for the Palestinians and for encouraging Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in a provision titled the “Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act of 2020.”
The provision, named for retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), is buried deep within the nearly 6,000-page legislative text.
Citing economic stagnation in the Palestinian Territories, and the potential for economic development to encourage peace, the Lowey Act would spend $50 million per year for the next five years. A version of the act passed the House in July.
The act would create the “People-to-People Partnership for Peace Fund,” run by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to “provide funding for projects to help build the foundation for peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians and for a sustainable two-state solution.”
It would also support projects that foster dialogue between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. The fund would have an advisory board of 13 members, plus two members “who are representatives of foreign governments or international organizations for renewable periods of 3 years.”
The act would also create the “Joint Investment for Peace Initiative,” which would provide investment funding for “projects that contribute to the development of the Palestinian private sector economy in the West Bank and Gaza.”
The act prohibits the funding from being used to aid any foreign government, including the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It also prohibits funds from being given to any group deemed to be involved in, or encouraging, terrorist activity.
Congress limited funding to the Palestinian Authority in 2018 under the Taylor Force Act, which prevents U.S. taxpayer dollars from going to the Palestinian government while it continues to pay stipends to terrorists and their families.
President Donald Trump has also cut other forms of U.S. funding to the Palestinians. His Middle East peace plan, introduced earlier this year, provides for a two-state solution, on condition that the Palestinian state be demilitarized and reject terrorism.