US House subcommittee advances $250m for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue programs
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US House subcommittee advances $250m for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue programs

Sum in major bill, to be spread out over 5 years, also includes cash for Palestinian business development; proposal has bipartisan support despite Trump’s defunding policies

House Appropriations Committee chair Nita Lowey, a Democrat of New York, is questioned by reporters at the Capitol in Washington, March 13, 2020. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
House Appropriations Committee chair Nita Lowey, a Democrat of New York, is questioned by reporters at the Capitol in Washington, March 13, 2020. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A House subcommittee included $250 million in funding for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue programs and Palestinian business development in a major spending bill — a pushback against Trump administration defunding in both areas.

An array of pro-Israel groups that do not often agree praised the spending plan, which has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The foreign operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee approved a $66 billion spending bill on Monday that includes $50 million a year over five years for dialogue programs and investment in the Palestinian private sector. That breaks down over time to $110 million for the dialogue programs and $140 million for the investments.

The pro-Israel groups praising the move on Twitter included AIPAC, a center-right group, and J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group. Many singled out the Appropriations Committee chairwoman, Nita Lowey, a Democrat of New York, a longtime pro-Israel stalwart who led advocacy for the funding. Lowey, who is retiring this year, is Jewish.

The Trump administration has slashed funding for economic development and person-to-person dialogue funding to almost zero. The economic portion of the Trump administration peace plan relies almost entirely on funding from non-US sources, mostly among oil-wealthy nations.

The bill “also seeks to restore humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinians to continue the viability of a two-state solution by providing resources to organizations working in the West Bank and Gaza,” Lowey said in her statement introducing the package.

ALLMEP, an umbrella group for peace dialogue, led lobbying for the package. The bill is subject to further revision as it heads to the full committee, then the House and finally reconciliation with the parallel Senate bill. However, the dialogue and investment component will likely survive because it has bipartisan backing.

Separately, the bill also includes $225 million for Palestinian relief and development funding, also a rebuke to Trump administration policy, which has cut such funding to virtually zero.

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