indicates related category

Rays of Hope (Behind the Scenes)

By Kenneth Bob and Brad Rothschild

The following is a somewhat shortened version of an article distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Trump can build trust and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians — if he wants,” co-authored in our respective roles as president and advocacy chair of Ameinu:

Given the current climate of mistrust and despair, it’s hard to believe that behind the scenes, there actually had been a certain level of progress made by Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, in returning trust between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Late last year, he brokered a deal in which Israel began selling water to the Palestinian Authority at a discounted rate. 

Another example of American-backed Israeli-Palestinian cooperation is the Arava Institute’s Track II Environmental Forum. Working with local communities, regional governments and international donors to solve small-scale infrastructure problems, the Forum has developed concrete proposals to build solar panel fields to power wastewater treatment plants and to install solar panels for homes in poor communities in Gaza. The program has also developed a portable solar pump system to give Palestinian farmers immediate access to water regardless of the electricity supply from the unreliable grid. With funding from the European Union and the Friends of the Arava Institute, there will be training sessions for Gazans to build technical capacity in the strip for solar energy independence.

Interestingly, despite the overall cut in American foreign aid spending, USAID has actually increased its grant programs by 20 percent to support grassroots “people to people” organizations that strengthen civil society.

One such initiative, Project Rozana, focuses on health care, an area in which Israelis and Palestinians interact in great numbers every day. Under this initiative, Israeli volunteers transport thousands of Palestinian children and their adult chaperones each year to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals, and large numbers of Palestinian health professionals train in Israeli medical facilities. Israelis and Palestinians meet and interact with each other on a human level while improving the Palestinian health care infrastructure. This is precisely the kind of program that builds trust and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, and can serve as an important foundation for a future peace process.

Gaza is in need of major infrastructure and economic development, something that can alleviate the sense of hopelessness that has caused thousands to resort to desperate and violent attempts to change the status quo.  

Following the ill-timed and poorly conceived embassy move, the United States can rebuild trust with the Palestinians by immediately reinstating funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which supports food supply, access to education, health care, social services and employment.  

Additionally, serious consideration should be given to the various proposals to increase Gazan exports and imports, which would create jobs. Israel’s minister of transportation recently proposed building a Gaza offshore sea port, or alternatively expanding the Kerem Shalom crossing into a logistic trade hub and a source of employment for adjacent communities in Gaza, Egypt and Israel.

Deescalating violence in the current climate will require a level of leadership that neither Israel nor the Palestinians seem to have at the moment. To bridge this leadership gap the parties will need a U.S. administration that resumes its traditional role as an honest broker.   

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply