Bipartisan bill would seed funding for civil society programs

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress would seed $50 million a year to promote civil society engagement between Israelis and Palestinians.

The bill “would establish a multi-national fund to support grassroots programs that promote peace and reconciliation in the region,” said a statement Friday from the office of Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) who is joined in the initiative by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.).

The U.S. contribution would be $50 million annually and further funding would come from the public and private sectors.

The Alliance for Middle East Peace, an umbrella for Israeli-Palestinian civil society groups which lobbied for the bill, noted that there were already hundreds of successful grassroots efforts underway. The fund would “provide the resources and expertise to scale up these initiatives to impact millions of people, and ultimately permit peace to thrive.”

ALLMEP in its statement said the fund is modeled on a similar one in Northern Ireland which has raised $1.5 billion since 1986 and is credited with bringing about the peace agreement which has held in the province since the mid-1990s.