Transcript: Partnership for Peace Fund Advisory Board Meeting

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Composed of up to 15 members, the PPF Advisory Board includes development experts, private sector leaders and faith-based leaders who are appointed by members of Congress and the USAID Administrator.

Male Speaker: Now, let's start to broadcast.  So, again, there'll be a countdown, and then we'll emerge together at the same time.

Megan Doherty: Hello, everyone.  On behalf of USAID, it is my honor to welcome all of you to the inaugural meeting of the Partnership for Peace Fund Advisory Board.  The Nita M. Lowey Partnership for Peace Act or MEPPA tasked USAID and the Development Finance Corporation with building trust and relationships between Israelis and Palestinians programming $250 million over five years all with the goal of broadening the constituency for peace.  MEPPA also established this Advisory Board to provide strategic guidance to USAID for the implementation of the fund.  Board members, we are grateful to Congress for appointing you.  And we are grateful to all of you for the time and the energy and the enthusiasm that you have approached this important work.

In today's meeting, we will hear first from our administrator who has been a staunch champion and supporter of MEPPA from the start.  We will also hear from our fantastic Chair, the Honorable George Salem, who will lead our conversation today.  We will also hear from experts in the field of peacebuilding.  They will take a critical look at what has worked and also just as importantly what has not worked in this space.  And they'll make some suggestions to guide the work learning from what has been done before.  We will also hear from all of you, our board members, with your initial recommendations for the strategic implementation and the approach that USAID should take when implementing these funds.

But before I introduce Administrator Power, who will briefly give you an update on the progress of the fund to date, so far the PPF, the Partnership for Peace Fund, has launched three grants.  The first program brings together Israeli and Palestinian businesswomen focusing specifically on young women trying to building the next generation of women entrepreneurs and also their connections and trust and trade with each other.  The second program focuses on Palestinian and Israeli business leaders, and small and medium enterprises are so important to the economy.  What is going to happen through that program is building joint business working groups where people come together, they look at shared challenges, and they try and forge common solutions to the shared problems while also increasing trade.  And then the third of these programs focuses on the alarming challenge of water scarcity that many communities are facing.  And so, it will bring together Israeli and Palestinian science experts and water experts to try and forge solutions for the equitable and sustainable access to water.  Through these first programs, we are taking the first steps of a journey that will take years, but we're excited to see what these initial programs accomplish and also what we can learn from them to have real impact over time.

With that, it is my deep honor to introduce Administrator Samantha Power for -- and thank her for her tireless support and her advocacy for this work.  Administrator, over to you.

Samantha Power: Good morning, everybody.  It is so good to see you all at this long-awaited, this inaugural meeting.  I just couldn't be happier to be a part of this.  Even though I know it has felt for some of you, like Congresswoman Lowey, that this has been a long time coming, it really couldn't be more timely for us to come together.  So, I really cannot underscore how committed we are at USAID to the enterprise that was set in motion well before some of us arrived, but to which we are deeply, deeply committed.

So, again, on this day of all days to be discussing ways to strengthen relationships, to build peace between Israelis and Palestinians, it feels like a very auspicious time, a very historic time.  It was a year ago that Congress passed the Nita Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, and this is the largest investment that the U.S. government has ever made to strengthen ties between the two communities.  It comes after years of, I think it's fair to say, inadequate funding.  I think my predecessor, Mark Green, would agree with that for people-to-people peace building initiatives.  And now, we have new money.  It's the rarest thing in Washington.  We have new money.  We have resources that we can use to improve, expand, and scale our work building connections between the Israeli and Palestinian people.  This legislation exists thanks in large part to one force of nature's will, to Congresswoman Lowey herself, who we're so pleased to have here on the Board.  She was a fierce advocate for Middle East peace over her 32 years in Congress.  We're also immensely grateful to all of you, the other board members here today and those of you listening in, for your years of advocacy and commitment to peace. 

In recent weeks, we have seen a rise in tensions, of course, but also terrible, horrific acts of violence.  Violence that reminds us of all that haunts the region, and violence that has to be addressed.  Violence that makes this legislation, this fund, and this Advisory Board more important than ever, because each of you understand that everyone, Israeli or Palestinian, deserves to live free of fair, free of fear, free to survive, free to thrive, free to provide for their family.  And I think everyone here understands that peace has to be built on the recognition of a shared humanity, and that the only way to embrace that shared humanity is to find what we have in common, to find that common ground.  And these are exactly the beliefs we hold here at USAID for decades.  We've funded and maintained projects that brought together Israelis and Palestinians through language and cultural seminars, civics classes and basketball clubs.  We have supported schools and hospitals that serve both Israelis and Palestinians.  We've helped to educate girls, increase access to healthcare, and provide clean water and basic necessities to Palestinian communities.  We intend our programming under the Partnership for Peace Fund to remain bold and unapologetic in its goals.  And we intend it to deliver real, measurable results for Israelis and Palestinians, regardless of where they live.

As you've just heard from our wonderful Deputy Assistant Administrator Megan Doherty, who's just back from the region, we announced our first three projects under the fund, projects that are going to empower women entrepreneurs, bolster small businesses, and strengthen water security in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.  These three projects acknowledge that Israeli and Palestinian lives are tightly bound.  And the projects bring together Israelis and Palestinians to embrace shared interests, shared prosperity, and ultimately a shared destiny.  We are looking to, of course, to refine these projects as we go, as we implement, as we move out.  We are also looking to expand our efforts to bring together Israelis and Palestinians.  And I am so grateful for the leadership of our new board Chair, the Honorable George Salem.

George has been a tireless advocate for peace.  The son of immigrants from Ramallah, he grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, in a community of over 100 Palestinian families.  He credits that community with the values that have powered his lifetime of advocacy.  And his work with Arab American and Palestinian organizations won him the 1992 Ellis Island Medal of Honor.  George brings to this role a lifetime of experience and a deep personal connection to peacebuilding in the region, both of which is going to make our work in the region more effective.  And so too will each of you, the rest of the board of the Partnership for Peace Fund.

It has been fascinating since I got in my job a year ago watching the names trickle in and reading the bios and immersing myself in the backgrounds of each of you as your names were put forward by our esteemed Senate and House leadership.  You are business leaders, faith leaders, former congressional leaders.  You bring experience from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.  Together, you have devoted decades to building peace between Israelis and Palestinians.   We have so much to learn from you, to gain from you, to bat around with you. And so, just thank you today and always for your guidance, your expertise, and your dedication to building what we hope and pray on this day of all days to be a lasting one.  Thank you so much, everybody.

George Salem: Thanks, Administrator Power, for your welcome and for the generous nature of your remarks.  And also, thank you for your leadership of this agency at this very, very important time.  There's -- every time I see your name in the press, you're in a different continent, working so very hard to fulfill the USAID mission, and we are appreciative of your taking the time to be with us today.

Thank you as well to all of our board members for bringing your experience and your expertise to this important body, and to all of our partners and friends around the world who are listening into this discussion today.  I would also like to thank our USAID team for their months, literally months of hard work to bring us to this point.

And I want to echo the Administrator, of course, in thanking our wonderful Congresswoman Nita Lowey for her commitment to peacebuilding between Palestinians and Israelis.  All of the work of this Board and USAID and DFC will do together under the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act will be because of you, Congresswoman.  It is a powerful legacy.  And I know I speak for all of my colleagues on the board when I say how honored we are to have you with us here today.

As Administrator Power mentioned, MEPPA represents the single largest investment that any government has made in people-to-people peacebuilding between Palestinians and Israelis.  It is the responsibility of the Partnership for Peace Funds Advisory Board to guide USAID in its historic effort as in that agency navigates the opportunities and challenges inherent to this work.  MEPPA, as we've said in all of our sessions with the board members, is about improving lives.  It is not about politics.  This legislation will not by itself solve the conflict.  Only good faith negotiations can achieve that.  Success for us means expending these funds in the way that maximizes the benefits that Congress intended building the conditions for those negotiations to take place and to succeed.

Over the lifetime of this Board, we will have to grapple with questions of where and when to focus PPF to achieve that goal.  For example, the legislation emphasizes innovation and economic partnership through shared and joint ventures.  It also reminds us of the importance of traditional peacebuilding work to strengthen relationships between individuals and communities.  MEPPA directs the U.S. government to redouble its efforts to lay the groundwork for a peaceful two-state solution.  But it also opens the door for the U.S. to seek buy-in from other like-minded governments for a concerted international effort.  In the months and years to come, we will need to find ways to diversify partnerships, to invest in local organizations, and also make sure that we are able to scale to the challenges which we are challenged to meet.  Fundamentally, this work is about people and not about politics, and we are trying to bring people together in order to improve everyone's lives.

We are meeting today to begin what will be of years long process of assessing, recommending, and learning.  And given the knowledge and background of the members of this Board, I'm confident that overtime our impact will be a significant and a positive one.  Some of our members are old friends, and others I only met through our work to prepare for this meeting.  For the benefit of those calling in, I'm going to call on each of you to introduce yourselves.  I will ask that you speak for one minute or less and tell us your name, your affiliation, and why you accepted the nomination to join the Board or why this work is important.  We will have more time later in this meeting to hear your recommendations for the PPF and to answer any questions that arise.  So, again, please let's take just less than one minute for these introductions.  We're going to go in alphabetical order by last name, but we deem it appropriate to acknowledge Mrs. Lowey first since she more than anyone is responsible for all of us being here today.

Congresswoman Lowey, I turn it over to you to introduce yourself to the Board and to those listening in.

Nita Lowey: Well, thank you very, very much.  And I am very emotionally attached to this program.  After serving in the Congress for 32 years, I spent a good portion of my time trying to make peace in the region.  And to see all of you gathered here today committed to working for peace and working to bring people together is a very, very important and emotional time to me.  So, I want to thank you all for being part of this effort.  I look forward to working together.  And I look forward to saluting all of us on our accomplishments.  We can be very positive and very proud that our efforts may not bring total peace, but certainly can bring all the parties together and work towards that important goal.  So, thank you very much, our Chairman George Salem, and thank you all, the members who've taken on this responsibility.  I've had the opportunity to interact with many of you.  And I look forward to working with all of you in our future efforts.  Thank you very, very much.

George Salem: Thank you so much, Congresswoman, for your inspiring words.  Next is Elliott Abrams.

Elliott Abrams: Thanks, George.  And thank you, Nita Lowey.  I'm a former State Department and NSC official, now back at the Council on Foreign Relations as a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies.  And I'll stop there.

George Salem: Thank you, Mr. Abrams.  Rabbi Angela Buchdahl.  Rabbi Buchdahl, are you on?

Angela Buchdahl: Can you --

George Salem: Yes, we can hear you now. 

Angela Buchdahl: Okay, great.  Hi.  I'm Rabbi Angela Buchdahl.  I'm the senior rabbi of a large congregation in Midtown Manhattan called Central Synagogue.  I first traveled to Israel when I was 16, which probably was the inspiration for my becoming a rabbi.  And I've been to the region at least 30 times.  And a very powerful experience on the encounter program, I traveled to the West Bank and met with Palestinian leaders, and it's shaped the way that I think about Israel and how we speak about it and how we work for peace.  And I'm really, really honored to be a part of this Advisory Board.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Rabbi Buchdahl.  Rabbi Michael Cohen.

Michael Cohen: Rabbi Michael Cohen.  A pleasure to see everybody.  I accepted this as a natural outcome that I've been on the ground and in the field for 25 years with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, where we educate and train a cadre of Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Moroccan, and international students on our Kibbutz Ketura campus.

George Salem: Thank you, Rabbi.  Sander Gerber.

Sander Gerber: Hi, everyone.  It's a great honor to be serving on the panel.  I have a history -- professionally, I manage a hedge fund.  But on the side, I've been over the period of time a member of the National Board of Directors of AIPAC and vice chairman of Woodrow Wilson Center.  I was on the Director of National Intelligence Senior Advisory Group Board.  I'm a fellow board member of the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs and a fellow at JINSA.  And through my work to pass the Taylor Force Act, I came to the conclusion that the Palestinian authority corruption is stealing the future from the Palestinian people.  And so, I'm very excited to be involved in U.S. government efforts to create people-to-people connections and to help the Palestinian people but to bypass the Palestinian authority in doing so.  So, it's a great honor, and I hope that we can make some progress.

George Salem: Thank you, Mr. Gerber.  Next, someone very familiar to USAID, Ambassador Mark Green.

Mark Green: Great.  Hello, everyone.  I'm Mark Green.  At various times, I've been the administrator of USAID.  I was ambassador to Tanzania, a member of Congress in my deepest dark past, former head of the International Republican Institute, and a great champion of what it is that we're trying to do here.  Nita, it's great to see you again, albeit virtually.  And I look forward to working with all of you on this.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Ambassador Green.  Hiba Husseini.

Hiba Husseini: Thank you.  It's a pleasure and an honor to serve as a member of the Advisory Board.  I'm a practicing attorney in Ramallah, Westbank.  I reside in Jerusalem.  I have been involved in peace activities for the last 20, 25 years.  And I believe in people-to-people projects.  I look forward to the work through this Advisory Board on innovation and getting Palestinians and Israelis to join activities and to facilitate the process to ending the conflict between the both of us.

George Salem: Thank you, Ms. Husseini.  Heather Johnston.

Heather Johnston: Thank you, George.  I am Heather Johnston, founder and executive director of U.S. Israel Education Association.  It's a 501(c)(3) organization that educates and serves Congress on the efforts toward a strong U.S.-Israel collaboration.  And in those efforts, we have led many, many delegations of senior members of Congress through the West Bank in particular to see the opportunities that exist for integrated business between Palestinians and Israelis.  I am very excited to get -- to be a part of this Advisory Board.  I want to thank Senator Shelby for appointing me and also wonderful Nita Lowey for providing the opportunity for us to get to help advise new ways for the U.S. support toward normalizing the relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

George Salem: Thank you, Ms. Johnston.  Harley Lippman.

Harley Lippman: Good morning, everyone.  And indeed it is an honor to be on the panel with everyone.  So, thank you for allowing me to participate in this.  I'm looking forward to making a difference.  We all talked about low expectations.  I've been very engaged in the Middle East for most of my life.  Formally, I was president of the America Israel Friendship League.  I chaired the Board of Directors of the American Jewish Congress.  And I'm active now as a trustee with various thinktanks.  And I'm on Arab television speaking about the Palestinian-Israeli issue.  I'm all about people-to-people interaction.  I began to work on what became the Abraham Accords looking at utilizing entrepreneurial skills, thinking out of the box, people-to-people, so it feels like this is a very good fit, and looking forward to making a contribution.

George Salem: Thank you, Mr. Lippman.  Jen Stewart.

Jen Stewart: Good morning, everyone.  First, thank you to Congressman Lowey, for your leadership and tireless efforts to get us to this point.  I'd like to thank Ms. Granger for appointing me.  I'd like to thank my fellow board members, particularly the Chairman, for your gracious hospitality and warm welcome as we've joined the Board together.  And I'd also like to thank the USAID team for their tireless efforts to make the system of onboarding process.  I'm currently at WestExec Advisors, which is a strategic consulting firm.  And I've served a couple tourists in the Pentagon.  But the reason I'm on the Board and I'm excited to serve is I spent over 15 years working on the Hill, including 10 in leadership, where I focused a lot working with both members and staff on sustainable and credible programming, policies, authorities, and funding for this particular region.

George Salem: Thank you, Ms. Stewart.  Congressman Robert Wexler.

Robert Wexler: I just knocked myself off.

Female Speaker: But we can hear you now.

George Salem: Congressman Wexler, are you on?

Robert Wexler: Oh, yes.  Can you hear me, George?

George Salem: Yeah, I can hear you, and we can see you.

Robert Wexler: Okay, great.  Well, thank you very much, George, for your leadership.  I also want to thank Ambassador Power for her decades of leadership on this issue and many others.  I would like to reiterate Ms. Stewart's comment about the tireless efforts of the USAID staff, which I think we all benefit from immensely.  I serve as the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, which is devoted to improving conditions and lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike and finding ways working with the Israeli and Palestinian governments to narrow the political differences between the sides.  It is an honor to be a part of this Board, particularly with my former colleagues, Congresswoman Lowey and Congressman Green.  And I too would like to thank Speaker Pelosi for giving me this honor.  Thank you, George.

George Salem: Thank you, Congressman.  It is indeed an honor to serve on this Board with such an impressive group of leaders.  And it's a real pleasure to welcome you all today.

And now, to our first presentation.  One of the most important roles for the Board is to learn from research and evidence and use it to help guide our recommendations.  In that spirit, we're fortunate to have with us today Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen.  Ms. Kurtzer-Ellenbogen is the director of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict program at the U.S. Institute of Peace.  She has previously worked with the U.S. Department of State and with Harvard University where she managed work on the Israeli-Palestinian and Saudi Arabian portfolios.  Her presentation is entitled, "Peacebuilding Lessons Learned."  And we'll focus on the academic research and what it tells us about what does and does not work in people-to-people peacebuilding in this conflict.  This will be the first of two presentations.  Each presentation will last approximately 15 minutes, followed by a five-minute Q&A session between board members and the presenters.  DAA Doherty will moderate the Q&A sessions.  And we will follow the second presentation with a brief break.

With that, I turn things over to you, Ms. Kurtzer-Ellenbogen.

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen: Thank you very much.  Good morning, everybody, Administrator Power, Deputy Administrator Doherty, Honorable Board Chair George Salem, and honorable members of the Partnership for Peace Fund Advisory Board.  It really is an honor and a pleasure to be able to join you this morning and share some lessons learned from the field of peacebuilding that I hope can help inform your shared goals and actions towards maximizing the impact and return on investment of this extraordinary opportunity presented by the Middle East Partnership for Peace Fund.

Next slide, please.  As Board Chair George Salem noted, I direct the Israeli-Palestinian conflict program at the U.S. Institute of Peace.  And though the views here I'll be sharing today on my own, I will be drawing on a body of knowledge, research experience gained over time under the auspices of U.S. Institute of Peace.  So, I wanted to just take a moment to describe what the Institute is and how it works.  The U.S. Institute of Peace was established itself by an act of Congress nearly four decades ago as an independent, nonpartisan national institute to prevent and resolve violent conflicts abroad and to serve as a resource to the American people and to the U.S. government on how best to promote peace, mitigate, and resolve violent international conflicts nonviolently.  And so, we pursue that work through a combination of research, training, convening, community level engagement, and partnerships.  And our work on the Israeli-Palestinian and broader Arab-Israeli conflict is, I believe, our longest sustained line of programming at the Institute, which means we've really had decades to gain a sense of the evolution of the field, draw some lessons from how it's been operating, and the growth it has experienced over time.

Next slide, please.  This is just an overview of how I'd like to present some of the learning I'm sharing today.  First, looking at the problem that this fund is designed and this kind of work is designed to address.  And we have already heard a lot of valuable insights on that from our speakers already, but then we're going to look at the tools that exist in the field, what we know about what works, we know about impact.  And finally, what are some of the opportunities that exist with this new opportunity.

Next slide, please.  When we look at identifying the problem, the challenge is significant, and it is daunting.  What you're seeing on this slide, in the bubbles on the slide are some broad takeaways, top line findings actually from a poll, a study that USIP partnered on with the Alliance for Middle East Peace, polling attitudes of Israelis and Palestinians in the 15 to 21-year-old age cohort.  This was done with the work of renowned pollsters Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin and Dr. Khalil Shikaki.  And the takeaways are rather bleak in terms of what it says about the trajectory of attitudes among this younger generation.  There were so many strong internal divisions in these views in each society.  Just about half on each side believe that a political resolution can actually bring peace.  There's mutual rejectionism.  Majorities on both sides reject each other's national and historic connection to the land.  Each side believes that force is the only way to bring the other side to negotiate or make concessions.  And mindful also of the language in the legislation that brought about the fund that talks about one of the goals and how it contributes to preserving potential for a two-state solution.  When we look at support for that solution among this age cohort, we see a mirror of what we've seen in the older generation.  Declining support, it still does receive a plurality of support.  But perhaps more concerningly, the solution or the outcome that gets the next level -- highest level of support in both societies is for one state with unequal rights for the other.

And so, what, you know, we're seeing here is a trend that is definitely a generational trend of decline or rather rise in negative attitudes towards the other.  And I -- you know, what we know about conflict tells us that serious ongoing violent deterioration on prospects for peace are on the horizon if these trends and attitudes are left to fester and remain uninterrupted.  And so, it's really the investment in the Middle East Partnership for Peace Fund that represents one important problem and prioritization required to interrupt this trajectory.  We know right now that the prospects of negotiation or political or diplomatic solution to this conflict is not in the horizon.  But contrary to some, I think, misguided approaches in the past view, the role of civil society peacebuilding is simply a supportive tool wielded to give support to a particular political process.  As we've already heard this morning, this really is the work that is the foundation of building support in society that can eventually bring about and certainly sustain any political agreement that might take hold.

Next slide, please.  So, when we look at what peacebuilding is, it's really -- as I mentioned, it's a set of tools that works to build trust and conditions conducive to peaceful coexistence and reconciliation, preventing and reducing violence and incitement, and promoting a sustainable culture of positive peace.  And I used this term "positive peace" here.  It's a sort of a term of art in the field to distinguish what's been identified as these two types of peace.  Negative peace is purely the absence of violence.  Positive peace is something that is required to make for a sustainable set of peaceful society and to allow lives and livelihoods to flourish.

Next slide, please.  We do have evidence to point to where we have seen this work and seen this in action.  The Middle East Partnership for Peace Fund in many way draws on the model that we saw in the International Fund for Ireland that -- where the U.S. and other partners put resources into building support for people-to-people work and economic development, starting about 12 years before the Good Friday Agreement was inked.  What you're seeing here on this slide is testimonials, if you will, from those who were involved in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement, former Senator George Mitchell, the former leaders of the United Kingdom and of Ireland, Bertie -- Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, testifying essentially to the fact that the piece of paper that is the Good Friday Agreement, as important and necessary as it is to bring about peace, it will not be sustainable and in many ways would not have come about without the serious work that was done on the ground to make the conditions right in both the economic and people-to-people sphere.  Just to note that the amount of investment that went into that fund is to date -- has been to date until now about -- I mean, close to about 30 times more per person in this conflict arena than you've seen invested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict arena until now.  So, just to give a sense of perspective of how game changing this new investment [inaudible].

Next slide, please.  When we talk about the tools that are available on what the field [inaudible], there's also been a -- there's been a caricature I find sometimes that's filled by skeptics who'll say, "Well, it's very nice some of this work that's done, but isn't it really just hummus and hobs [spelled phonetically]" the term that I've heard before.  And what you see with this taxonomy that I put up here is the field is really -- it's serious, it's intentional, and it employs a diverse set of practices that what this cycle that's sort of -- the graphic it's representing has evolved over time.  What started with primarily dialogue in the people-to-people space really evolved to build towards educational approaches and shared interest approaches and shared problem approaches and civic engagement.  The box that says "broadening constituencies" refers to the fact that this is not a field, in fact, that has been simply preaching to the choir.  Increasingly in the last decade, certainly you've seen this field really reached out to engage those beyond what was thought of as the traditional peace camp, to engage a broader set and representative set of both societies that the work is engaging.

Next slide, please.  What you're seeing on this slide is just two examples of a couple of reports that we have produced over time at USIP.  Looking at what works, what is the impact that we can see, what do we know about the impact of people-to-people programming?  And this is not just in the space of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  There's just lots of programming that has been run also in Northern Ireland, in the Horn of Africa, in Macedonia, Kosovo, Columbia, Pakistan.  So, we do have some comparative research to look at when we evaluate these lessons.

Next slide, please.  What are some of the top line findings?  This is -- as I've referenced already, it's resilient.  It's a diverse, and it's a dynamic field.  It is a field that even when you look specific to Israeli-Palestinian context, even with the relatively minimal funding or malefic turns it's had over time, it has adapted to the conditions and the external shocks that have come from the realities of the conflict, and it's adapted to the realities of what's happening and in accordance with the learning it has developed along the way.  International funding to date has contributed to that.  The funding that USAID has given to this date among others has helped the field professionalize to learn about monitoring and evaluating its impact and how to work in a way that is mindful of the need to adapt and to show impact.  It's also effective in humanizing the other and motivating long-term engagement towards peacebuilding.

There are the challenges that have been identified to broader impact.  You see over on the right hand side of this chart this term "reentry."  Reentry refers to what happens when somebody engages in a people-to-people program, perhaps experiences personal transformation or change.  But then what happens when that person reenters that community or community of practice?  And how well are they able to sustain that impact and scale up that personal impact to broaden out into societal or communal transformation?  That has been a challenge we've seen in the field in many conflict spaces and certainly in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict context.  But this can be mitigated.  We have [inaudible] follow-on activities.  When the work doesn't end just when the project cycle ends, the -- what is built into project cycles is the ability to keep engaging those who've participated through alumni engagement or other efforts.  Again, this next challenge, which is related, the personal transformation is often clear, there are all these barriers to macro transformation.  And in each case, this finding has suggested that broader longer term success in this regard will be helped by the ability to bring this field to scale with funding.  We know right now there are programs with waitlists, of people who are wanting to join and participate in these people-to-people activities, but the funding has not yet been there to enable these organizations to absorb.  So, that is the good news in this space, and again, hopefully one in which this funding from the Partnership for Peace Fund can step in and really make a difference.

Next slide, please.  So, what are some correlations we've seen with some success correlations?  In terms of what we've seen on the practitioner side, projects and streams of works are more successful when those who are implementing them have strong community credibility.  Employ multiple transfer methods, what that means is that they're not just relying on one method.  We have showed you that taxonomy before that there were multiple lines of effort to bring that transformation that's happening during the program out into the broader community, whether its engagement with parents, with teachers in the schools, reports through advocacy.  Using multiple lines of efforts will make a difference in the success of a program.  Inclusive participation, that means again broadening the constituencies who are "usual suspects."  And again, the field has evolved very much in the last number of years, and so we see -- we've seen a vast development in that taking place and opportunities for that to happen more.

Uni-national or intragroup, what that means is what we found is particularly in the dialogue context or frankly in any engagement context, the impact is much stronger when what is built into the programming is the ability for each of the groups, whether it's Jewish-Israeli or Arab-Israeli engagement, that society engagement, or Israeli and Palestinian across the green line when built into programming is the ability for those groups to meet within their own groups first before entering into cross-group engagement, and afterwards to process what happened in the cross-group engagement.  Building in that ability has been shown time and time again to make a difference in the strength or the impact at the end of the programming.  Sustained engagement beyond project lifecycle, this means building in for -- on the funder side multiyear engagement and funding that allows for the participants of the program to keep processing the learning after a particular project activity has happened.  And also when there was capacity in-house to evaluate and monitor the work and not just always relying on external evaluations to do that.  There are correlations then again for what this means for the [inaudible] down the right side of the chart.  But what it suggests is that the implementers should really trust in the -- rather, the funder should trust the implementing partners and see them as partners.  What has happened with the limited pool of funding in this work over many years is it's fostered a lot of competition.  There are a lot of organizations all competing for the same small pot of money.  And what has also ended up happening is that they will therefore be constantly operating from project cycle to project cycle.  This will be often funding streams that will fund a particular project for a year, which in terms of best practice it really has not allowed for proper long-term monitoring and engagement to self-reflection.  So, again, multiyear funding and a larger part of funding can really help that challenge.  Value, as I've mentioned, intragroup work within the stream of funding that you're giving and within the projects that you're considering.  Build in funding and space for monitoring and evaluation to take place and to build the capacity in house for your practitioners to be able to do that.

This last one, willingness to take risks, I put on both sides, what we've seen a strong correlation of when we went back to some of the work that we have supported for USIP over time is that many of the organizations who said, you know, you took a risk on this to pilot something that was a little bit edgy and innovative at the time.  And thanks to that, we really were able to provide proof of concept and leverage that to get others to come in and fund it on a bigger scale.  This is incredibly important if we see this as sort of seed funding that takes -- that is taking risks and allows the practitioners some flexibility to experiment, to maybe fail in some elements.  But what we've seen is that when that kind of innovation is encouraged, it does tend to yield some strong, impactful results.

Next slide, please.  What does this mean in terms of the opportunities [inaudible] leveraging?  I started when I was -- when I referred to the poll early on in this presentation, and I gave some rather bleak news, there are some positive highlights to look at and some opportunities to take hold of.  There is a correlation we've seen within some of the findings in this study.  We need more positive attitudes in those who have been able to engage and add more contact with the other side.  There is a high proportion -- and this is a key opportunity here, a high proportion on both sides who had no or minimal contact with the other side yet, and yet only a minority of those have explicitly would feel it completely illegitimate to do so.  We know there were some strong attitudes in both societies about the illegitimacy of intergroup work.  But what the study revealed is that many of these people who have not yet engaged have said, "No, I don't necessarily deem it illegitimate."  Meaning that there was an opportunity to recruit these people and find a way to bring them in to engage in this kind of work.  We've also seen interestingly that despite all the negative attitudes towards different elements of the other's identity and the conflict that both sides respect the majority religion of the other side which perhaps provide some important opportunities for work that engages around with faith leaders and in a interfaith setting.  And there are plenty of organizations on the ground that have been working and operating quite sophisticatedly in that space for a while.

And then one last one, that majorities believe peace is possible between ordinary people, which again, if -- that speaks directly to the kind of work we're looking at potentially funding with this stream of funding from the Middle East Partnership for Peace Fund.  I would just say lastly in terms of concrete maybe opportunity to recommendations for guides who look at guiding this funding towards the most impactful areas.  Here is an opportunity to really build the capacity of a field that has so much potential.  It has realized a fair amount of that potential to date, but needs to be able to scale up.  And to do so, I think there's really strong room for investing in infrastructure that allows that to happen, that allows these organizations to work together as a community, that allows the funding model as well to encourage synergies between these organizations where organizations can help each other filling gaps that they don't have and really produce together these mixed transfer methods and methods of working that produce broader impact, the ability to provide training, the ability to provide capacity building that helps create a pipeline that makes this field sustainable right now, that invests in the youth particularly who engaged in this work, to be able to take on this work themselves.  One of the other findings we have found of impactful projects is that when participants themselves are engaged in learning how to facilitate programs themselves, you get a much more sustained impact over time.

I would just lastly note that it's the efforts really of Israeli and Palestinian civil society peacebuilders, the foundation laid by their work and relationships, and the support they receive from funders committed to securing a sustainable and peaceful future that will ultimately help move this needle in the promise of peace and reconciliation to its actualization.  And the invaluable tool that is provided by MEPPA will really help pursue this U.S. interest and the shared interests of the parties to the conflict to make that happen.  So, thank you.

Megan Doherty: Thank you so much for that fantastic and insightful presentation.  We have about five minutes for questions.  Because we're at the mercy of an imperfect technology, I will just ask board members who'd like to ask questions, make sure that you're on camera, and that you raise your hand, so that we know that you'd like to ask a question, and that we can call on you.  We know it is unlikely that we will get to everyone's questions, so our commitment to you is if you have a question and you're unable to ask it in this moment, we will collect them and we'll make sure to provide a response from Lucy and her amazing team in writing.  And that will be part of the public record of this meeting.

With that, any board member wishing to ask a question, could you please raise your hand on the screen, so that we know it's all on you?  And, of course, George, you will also --

George Salem: Thank you.

Megan Doherty: -- be able to ask questions as a board member.

George Salem: Seeing no hands up, I will take the prerogative as the Chair to ask a question.  Lucy, you talked about these Palestinian and Israeli civil society organization helping to achieve buy-in and acceptance on both sides.  Has there been -- what is the level of experience we have in that space?  And will the MEPPA funding that's provided do you think make a measurable difference?  And a subset or a corollary is, how will we measure whether we're making a difference?  What is their polling?  Or what kind of -- what kinds of metrics do you use?  Thank you.

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen: Thank you, George.  So, as I mentioned, I referenced a couple of times the International Fund for Ireland and Northern Ireland conflict.  And I referenced that because it really has a parallel model here that I think in many ways was the inspiration that is investing simultaneously in economic development and in people-to-people partnerships.  And what we did see with that -- and there was a long runway that's been 30 years now of investment in that space.  And, of course, the first 12 years led up to then -- you've proceeded the Good Friday Agreement.  And the work, and this is important, has continued.  And peacebuilding is a long-term proposition.  We know that, right?  Funding a project for a year or even for three years is not going to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation.  But when you cumulatively build a community of practice -- and this is why I would recommend as I said really investing in the ability and space, even for this physical space in which these organizations that act as a community rather a separate organizations all sort of competing for the same pot of money, building that community and those spaces in which Israelis and Palestinians can come together to humanize each other, to find common shared interests towards which to work, what you see is the -- a reduction of the dehumanization.  We've seen it again through sophisticated tools in monitoring and evaluation.  And we're going to hear about some of those, I believe, in the next presentation.  But what we have seen is a reduction in those negative attitudes and the ability to more constructively work together to innovate and to work towards and to see a shared goal as two communities living side by side and really interdependent no matter where this political solution goes, the political geography is such that this conflict, similar to what we saw in Northern Ireland where physical -- absolute separation is not going to be possible.

And so, we have seen -- again, looking at the model of Northern Ireland, we've seen that work from the evaluation we've been able to do.  And there's been lots of it over the years of Israeli and Palestinian peacebuilding field.  We have seen these incredibly promising impacts that, again, if we can scale up and bring more people in, we are I believe guaranteed to see it transfer more significantly out to the broader community.  There needs to be voices amplified.  If I can give an anecdote to answer -- to get to your question as well, on the polling -- there has been polling where we can track attitudes.  And I will tell you actually -- I'll actually use the moment mindful of time to give one of my favorite findings -- polling findings on this.  There was a poll done in 2013.  It happened and it was also with some support from USIP.  It was conducted by Shibley Telhami at the University of Maryland.  And it was polling Israelis and Palestinians on what kind of final status agreement they might agree to it, sort of gave a model final status agreement and what one might expect to see.  And it polled Israelis and Palestinians.  Would you support this particular element?  Would you support this as a package deal?

The most interesting thing to me was that the poll -- the investigator went back at the end of collecting the results to those who said, "I would not support this.  No matter what, I would not support this," and said, "Okay.  The other side has agreed, has signed on the dotted line and supports it.  Do you support it?"  And on both sides, support for that agreement went up by about 10 percent.  What that tells you, I think, is the psychological component here that when there is trust in the other side as a good faith partner, it does a lot to the trust in good faith.  It's sort of mutually reinforcing.  And so, I think that we've consistently seen as well that when that is confidence building measures and active diplomatic process, movement on the political front, pulling attitudes on things like support for two states or belief that a political solution can resolve the conflict, those numbers tend to go up.  You can look at it almost like -- you can look at the trend lines on this, because they've been polling over time.  So, we know that there is a benefit and attitudinal benefit towards confidence building, towards trust building, towards humanizing the other side, and to providing hope that peace actually is possible.

Megan Doherty: Thank you very much. We do need to move on to our next presentation, but I'll just check and see if there are any brief questions that our members would like to ask.  And again, if not and you think of things later, you can email us and we can make sure that you receive additional information.  All right.  Thank you so much, Ms. Kurtzer-Ellenbogen.

For the next presentation, I'm delighted to introduce Dr. Danice Guzman from the Pulte Institute of Notre Dame.  Danice is an expert in many things, but most relevant to us today, an expert in experimental and quasi-experimental research design, power calculation, survey programming, and complex data analysis.  So, today, she is going to present findings of the Expanding the Reach of Impact Evaluation in peacebuilding evaluation or ERIE as it's also known.  And her team -- her incredible team conducted this.  And the research looked into the specific impacts of USAID's people-to-people peacebuilding work in Israel and the West Bank from 2011 to 2017.

So, with that, we'll turn it over to you, Dr. Guzman.

Danice Guzman: Thank you, Megan.  And thank you to all of the board for welcoming me.  Again, my name is Danice Guzman.  I'm the associate director of Evidence and Learning at the Pulte Institute for Global Development.  We are a research institute based out of the University of Notre Dame.  I'm going to give a brief presentation on our retrospective evaluation of the long-term effects of USAID's people-to-people activities in Israel and the West Bank from 2011 to 2017.  Today, I'll share our findings from this study, and I'll close my presentation with some recommendations for future evaluation work.

Next slide, please.  So, briefly, our evaluation aims to conduct long-term follow-up on four people-to-people activities implemented by USAID or the Department of State from 2011 to 2017.  As you all know, USAID's Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation has funded people-to-people activities since the early 2000s, although activity had lessened recently.  And thanks to the effort of Congressman Lowey and this Board, it has kicked back up again.  People-to-people activities emphasize the local elements of peacebuilding by prioritizing face-to-face interactions between groups on opposite sides of the conflict in an effort to build trust, empathy, and resilient social ties.

In terms of this study, two of the four interventions we evaluated were uni-national, meaning they supported interactions between Arab and non-Arab-Israeli citizens within Israel.  Hand in hand, the first program we evaluated, is a system of bilingual K through 12 schools teaching in both Arabic and Hebrew.  The second uni-national program called Ein Dor is a museum-based program for students, which aims to help young people learn about the shared cultural history of the two groups.  Next, there were two cross-border programs included in the study: Parents Circle-Families Forum, a support group for those grieving the loss of an immediate family member who has died as a result of the conflict, and Near East Foundation's Olive Oil Without Borders and economic development activity for farmers.

We collected our data in the summer and fall of 2018 after these projects had already closed.  This type of evaluation is called a retrospective study.  It aims to learn about sustained or longer term effects of such programming on beneficiaries.  It was funded through our mechanism called ERIE or Expanding the Reach of Impact Evaluation.  This mechanism aims to look at long-term impacts of USAID programming in instances where you may not observe program effects within the lifecycle of the project itself or where your theory of change relies on long-term sustained outcomes in the face of continued shocks.  In an area of protracted conflict such as Israel and the West Bank, this question of whether or not program effects are lasting and if they can sustain shocks is a really important question.  And this is why this study was such a great fit for our mechanism.

Next slide.  So, for this study, the bulk of our research was qualitative in nature.  We conducted focus groups and interviews with program staff and beneficiaries of the programs.  We also included a quantitative survey which was sent to participants in one uni-national program and one of the cross-border programs.  The outcomes we assessed included perception and communication with the other, belief in the possibility of peace or reconciliation, and spillover beyond direct participants.  There are a few limitations of our study that I want to mention.  In this case, we didn't have access to baseline data or a comparison group, so we don't know how people's opinions changed over time compared to how they felt at baseline.  And we don't know how they compared to their peers.  We also experienced an imbalance in participation in our study, which was reflective of the empower -- the power imbalance inherent in this work.  Because of these limitations, I really caution you to interpret these findings as potential areas of sustained impact and topics which we should explore further in future research.

Next slide.  So, let's move on to those findings.  We did find positive and lasting results of the P2P programming in terms of perceptions of the other.  We inquired about many different ways in which people's opinions of the other may have changed as a result of their experience.  And the most commonly selected response in our survey was feelings of similarity with people on the opposite side of the conflict.  Through this experience, people were able to learn that they had something in common with those from the other side, something they didn't know they had in common with them before the interaction.  We see on the slide just a few quotes that emphasize these feelings of similarity.  In addition, respondents from both identity groups shared their experience with someone outside the program, such as friends, family, or coworkers.  In qualitative interviews, both identity groups described resistance, criticism, or hesitancy from the people they told.  And this was particularly strong on the Arab side, where participants were accused of engaging in normalization.  However, respondents from both sides gave success stories about convincing others that the experience was positive and worthwhile, and even recruiting others to join the program in future iterations.

Next slide.  We also noted that respondents from both sides reported making a friend from the opposite identity group, and some also noted that they were able to keep in touch with these new friends even after they closed their interaction with the program.  Social media was often cited as playing an enabling role allowing them to communicate when face-to-face interactions were no longer possible.  And finally, for our last indicator, belief in the possibility of peace, reconciliation, or coexistence, our findings on this indicator were more mixed.  Many respondents pointed out that there are structural barriers to peace.  And to achieve peace, collaboration is needed at the national level between their governments and leaders.  So, they did not express hope, especially in 2018.  They did not believe that this national level of peace was possible.  However, some respondents did say that they believe that coexistence was possible.  But many were not hopeful that a collaboration between their governments would occur anytime soon.  And we have a few quotes on the slide as well to demonstrate that.

Next slide.  So, I'll move to recommendations from this report itself, and then I'll move to broader recommendations regarding evaluation in the sector.  So, our report provided some recommendations in terms of programming based on our data and the literature.  These included recruiting participants in groups to provide a support or structure for bringing changed attitudes back to their communities, and funding more uni-national follow-up activities to debrief and process the experience.  We also recommended providing support for the sustained communication we observed in the form of alumni gatherings and use of social media to promote communication when in-person meetings are not possible.  As we heard in Lucy's presentation, the need for follow-up to process the experience or support reentry was also supported by the literature.  Finally, we acknowledged the power asymmetry in these encounters.  Despite concerns of normalization, we found that Arab-Israelis and Palestinians participated at higher frequency in these activities, because they had a deeper need for some of the resources that these activities provided.  Literature demonstrates that when people-to-people encounters occur in a situation of power imbalance, they are less effective.  Therefore, we encourage these programs to strive for equal participation in the future and to ensure that these activities be sanctioned by a higher authority whenever possible.

Next slide.  Finally, I'll conclude with two slides presenting recommendations for future evaluation in the sector.  These recommendations come both from our report and also from conversations we've had when presenting these findings in other conferences and workshops.  First, a key step in planning for evaluation is deciding on what indicators will be measured.  We recommend adopting some common indicators across the various activities that you plan to fund for comparative purposes.  This is because many P2P programs are fairly small in scale, and adopting common indicators can help you compare the effects of one program with another.  Furthermore, if you use metrics that have been tied to nationally representative surveys or the polls that were mentioned in the previous presentation, you can also make comparison with national trends.  Databases of such metrics already exist, such as the Eirene Database of Peacebuilding indicators, which includes measurements used in long-term evaluations of other P2P activities, such as Seeds of Peace.  Finally, in our report, we include several recommended indices, and we include those in full so they can just be taken directly from the report and use.  Some are on positive perceptions of the other, a scale on empathy, a scale that can help measure humanization, and a series of questions on safety and security.  We also recommend using social media in measurement.  Machine learning methods can analyze large sets of texts to compare sentiments in real time as shocks are occurring.  If these programs become more active on social media, text analysis methods can be used to assess changes in sentiment among different groups and in real time in response to shocks.  Our last recommendation is to continue to strike a balance between quantitative or measurable outcomes and qualitative or narrative data.  Reliable statistics are important, and they are lacking in this sector.  But stories from these regions are also very powerful, and they can move lawmakers and policymakers to act, so we encourage striking a balance between these two different modes of data collection.

Next slide.  Finally, I encourage you all to think carefully now about how you want to evaluate the impacts of these investments.  We were engaged to conduct the long-term follow-up after the projects that we were evaluating had already closed, and we faced challenges that were due to a lack of preparation for rigorous evaluation from the start.  At the beginning of this new activity, you have the opportunity to change that and to prepare well for measurement of impacts from the onset of programming.  Expert evaluators in this sector can help you decide on common indicators, such as knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, stereotype reduction, willingness to engage in future peacebuilding work, and reduced inclination towards violence, or selecting war as the solution of a problem.  Having a bank of such indicators ready from the start of this initiative will help you prepare for solid measurement of impact later down the line.  You can engage evaluators and external researchers in the sector to collect baseline data, identify comparison groups, and guide program staff on how to accurately and safely document who participated in the program, so that follow-ups can be done more systematically in the future.  Evaluation experts can also help you consider questions like, how would you define success in five years' time?  How would you measure that?  If you invest funding in evaluation and research partners from the start of programming, I assure you that you will have better evidence of impact and better learnings on what worked and learnings from what didn't work later down the line.

Last slide.  Thanks.  And I just also want to thank my collaborators at Notre Dame, Tom Purekal and Lila Khatiwada.  He led the qualitative research on this project.  Thanks also to our collaborators and consultants in the region, at CMM and at the USAID mission, and at each program office.  And lastly, I just really want to thank our respondents for sharing their time, their stories, and their opinions on these sensitive topics.  Without them, we could not have completed this evaluation.  I'll close there and pass it back to you, Megan.

Megan Doherty: Thank you so much for that.  We will now turn again to our board members.  If you have any questions that you'd like to ask Dr. Guzman, please just raise your hand on screen, so that we can see and then we can call on you.  Mr. Abrams, over to you.

Elliott Abrams: Thank you.  My question is about self-selection of participants.  How -- you know, it just seemed to me that if these results are more positive than -- appear more positive than they really are, because you're getting self-selection of participants more inclined to engage in these kinds of activities, then actually the news is not so good.  So, how do you control for that or deal with that question?

Danice Guzman: Certainly.  Megan, would you like me to answer that?  Or were you planning on taking a few questions?

Megan Doherty: Go ahead.

Danice Guzman: Yeah.  So, self-selection is definitely something we think about quite often in evaluation methods.  Some of these programs we particularly selected, because they actually had a list of all of their participants.  So, the program staff themselves were not just picking out maybe the most enthusiastic participants to answer our surveys or join our focus groups.  We were able to actually sample randomly from those who participated in the program.  There is a question as well of if the people who decide to join these types of interventions are different than the larger population in the region.  This is, again, one of the reasons that we recommend this kind of commonly used indices or metrics and doing surveys at both baseline to understand how the population that you're serving actually compares to the larger population and to be able to track that over time.  So, that can give you some better information on selection.  I have read studies that show that actually the people that participate in these programs are not so different than the general population.  But it really depends program to program.  And that's a really important question and something that you should be thinking about in evaluation.  Thank you.

Megan Doherty: Thank you, Dr. Guzman.  Rabbi Buchdahl, please go ahead.  Rabbi Buchdahl, I'm sorry, we can't hear you.

George Salem: [inaudible]

Megan Doherty: Yeah, we can see that you're speaking.  Can you try and mute and then unmute yourself?

Angela Buchdahl: Okay.  I'll try that again.  Can you hear me now?

Megan Doherty: Yes.

George Salem: Yes.

Danice Guzman: Yes.

Angela Buchdahl: Okay.  Given how important evaluation is, I didn't know if we are -- part of our role is to allocate money for research and evaluation, or if that's already built in somewhere else, or if that funding needs to come out of what we allocate, and then who does that evaluation.

Megan Doherty: Rabbi Buchdahl, I can actually answer that question.  So, evaluation and research is so important to ensuring that these programs are successful and that we're learning from them and that we're adapting.  So, we would welcome -- we would strongly welcome should the board wants to advise USAID to invest in research and in rigorous evaluation methods.  And I hope that we'll hear that recommendation from some of you today.  Are there --

Angela Buchdahl: Great.  Thank you for --

Megan Doherty: I believe -- Ms. Johnston, did I see your hand up?

Heather Johnston: No, you didn't.

Megan Doherty: All right.  Are there any other questions for Dr. Guzman?  All right.  Then we will thank you, Dr. Guzman, so much for spending your time.  If any other questions emerge from our board members, we will reach out to you for additional information.  Thank you so much.

And with that, we will turn it back to our Chairman.

George Salem: Thank you, Megan.  And thank you to each of our presenters today.  We appreciate you taking time to join us and to educate us about our work.  We will now proceed to a 10-minute break.  Members, please remember to mute your mics and turn off your video.  And we will reconvene at 9:26 a.m.  And with that, we are commencing all break.  I will give a two-minute warning when we're ready to recommence, so you'll hear a voice.

We will recommence in two minutes.  Two minutes, please.

It is now 9:26 a.m., so we will move to the next portion of our agenda.  This is the time during which we will hear from each of our board members on their recommendations for the strategic direction of the Partnership for Peace Fund.  Each of these interactions will last three minutes, and then we will have a brief discussion to capture areas of consensus or where further conversation may be warranted in the future.  Note that there'll be a timer on the screen for the benefit of each member that will count down from three minutes.  We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to speak, so I apologize in advance as I will interrupt if anyone goes over time.

And again, out of respect for her experience and work as the author and champion of MEPPA, we will begin with Congresswoman Lowey, and then go reverse alphabetical order by last name.  Congresswoman Lowey, please show your thoughts and recommendations.  Over to you.  Is Congresswoman Lowey on?  She's muted.  Congresswoman, are you there?  Well, we can come back to Congresswoman Lowey if she's away from her camera.

And we will turn now to Congressman Robert Wexler.  Robert, are you on?  You're muted.

Robert Wexler: Hi.  Can you hear me now?

George Salem: Yes, we can.  Thank you.  And we can see you.

Robert Wexler: Well, thank you very much.  For me listening to the very valuable presentations thus far, I'm going to start by a few points that I would hope to make quickly.  Number one, the value of what we are endeavoring to do is greater than simply handing out grants.  It seems to me to be most effective the MEPPA program needs to be a policy tool.  It is essential that our grants, that the work that is encouraged be tied to a policy.  And that policy as I understand it to some degree has been stated today, which is to improve conditions, improve lives, which I would concur with.  But I would also suggest respectfully that we should be a bit more ambitious, not just improve conditions, improve lives, but do so in a manner that helps to narrow the political differences between Israelis and Palestinians.  Not resolve the conflict necessarily, but help to bring the sides closer together where possible.

There are a few points that I would hope to highlight.  Number one, peacebuilding efforts in the past, I think one of the shortcomings has been -- is that they are largely secular attempts.  It is no secret that Israeli and Palestinian societies, constituencies have very strong participation from religious constituencies.  To the extent that our program focuses solely on secular constituencies and secular efforts, I think we will be missing the mark.  I think it is essential that we also focus on religious constituencies in Israel and the Palestinian territories amongst Israelis and Palestinians with a high priority on bringing religious constituencies and religious leadership into these efforts.

The final point that I would hope to make is that as I understand it from Palestinians, but also from Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria or the West Bank, that the most important contribution we can make to improving conditions is to increase freedom of movement.  And we can do so consistent with Israeli security.  And I would hope that we would focus on emphasizing the freedom of movement particularly from Palestinians, from Palestinian population centers to other Palestinian population centers.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Congressman.  I see that Congresswoman Lowey has returned.  Welcome.  And we look to you for your intervention, please.

Nita Lowey: Well, first of all, let me thank everyone who is participating.  I came to Congress 32 years ago.  Now, I am retired.  And I had an opportunity to be on the Labor, Health, Human Services, Education Committee with a budget that's probably 10 times that of foreign operations.  I chose foreign operations because of my commitment to Israel-United States relationships.  And I think what is so important about this program is the unity to share ideas to get to know each other.  And hopefully, I'm not sure that we can resolve all the issues, but I think there are challenges that certainly we can be creative, committed, and determined to address.  So, I want to thank everyone who's participating.  As the author of this program and the funder of this program, I really thank you very much.  This is a talented group.  And we may not, as I said, solve all the problems, but I hope we can address them with some creativity and conviction and determination.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Congresswoman.  Ms. Jen Stewart, the floor is yours.

Jen Stewart: Thank you, Chairman.  I would like to start off by saying that I think one of the foundational elements that has built bipartisan support on the Hill has been focused on giving hope -- a sense of hope for the future and independence for people to help support their families and help see what the future could look like for them from an economic perspective.

So, in that context, I would like to make three specific recommendations.  Recommendation one is on the economic development track.  I'd like us to take a hard look at education.  But a subsection of that is I'd like us to look hard at STEM.  As a second recommendation, I would be supporting doing partnership landscape analysis to see if we can identify new partners or diversify partnerships that we have in this field to make sure that we are getting to one of the objectives we learned about in the presentations earlier on scale.  And the third, because this needs to be enduring and we need to build credibility among a very diverse group of stakeholders, I do recommend that a portion of the allocation go to evaluation, metrics, and programming.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Ms. Stewart.  Mr. Harley Lippman, the floor is yours.

Harley Lippman: Thank you.  Well, interestingly enough, I had the opportunity to work on something similar to this being on the board of a few universities, one of them being Yale, where I and the school came up with an idea of bringing over one Israeli and one Palestinian.  And that was the program.  Interestingly enough, we just couldn't find a Palestinian that met the academic credentials of what Yale was looking for.  I don't think the search was very thorough, and I'm sure there are qualified Palestinians, but the school didn't find them.  So, they ended up picking somebody from Saudi Arabia, one year in Egypt, another year in Morocco.  The reason why I'm telling you that story is there was no thought as to how well they would get along.  It was just basically making it equal in terms of giving an educational opportunity to two promising individuals from different sides of the fence.  Yet it may have been obvious to this group, but what was remarkable was the friendship that developed out of this.  They didn't know each other.  They came from completely different worlds, but they were forced to be together to sign up for the classes together, forced in a good way to pick accommodation.  Of the four, three of the four chose in the second semester to share an apartment together.  A real -- when you talk about measurement, a real indication that a friendship developed, which they said would never ever have happened if they weren't put together.  And they had to figure out how to -- where to live in New Haven, what kind of courses to take.  So, it forced to make -- I used the word "force," but it required them to work together to a common good.  And so, human feelings of friendship, of affection, and passion, mutual interest developed, and they became really good friends.  It was remarkable.  None of us really thought it would happen.

So, why I'm telling that story is I've already tested it.  It has worked out incredibly well.  The only thing absent were Palestinians.  I'd love to see a program where we could do this and find qualified Palestinians, because I saw how successful it was with Israelis and Arabs.  And I think it would be equally successful, if not more so, with Israelis and Palestinians with a few universities that I'm aware of and that are structured to be able to absorb these kinds of programs and make them successful.

George Salem: Thank you, Mr. Lippman.  Ms. Heather Johnston, the floor is yours.

Heather Johnston: Okay.  Thank you.  In taking senior leaders of Congress over the last decade into the West Bank, in particular, we spent two days out of the seven there.  And I think that what stood out, maybe more than anything in the communication going to both Jewish cities and towns as well as Palestinian villages and cities, I think that what has come to the fore more than anything has been the desire of the Palestinians to prosper, which they would interpret as being able to do business with their Israeli neighbors.  They want their families to prosper financially.  As we all know on this call, the Palestinian authority has been in opposition to an integrated economy or integrated business or normalization really, which would prevent integrated business from flourishing.  But I do believe MEPPA can play a significant role.  I think there are ways for MEPPA to bridge that gap.  And I do believe that the best way to normalize relations between Palestinians and Israelis is going to be business -- integrated business for the future.  And it opens a dialogue that goes past the politics to what is essential and basic and ultimate to families.  And I think we need an ecosystem that promotes that.

I'm excited that MEPPA is going to take a trip.  The Board seems to be taking a trip to the region.  And I'd like to recommend that the Advisory Board visit the West Bank and to see some real integrated businesses between Palestinians and Israelis.  I'd like to recommend that the advisory council include a visit to Hebron, which is where 50 percent of the Palestinian GDP is generated.  I'd like to recommend a meeting with Sheikh Ashraf Jabari and part of the Hebron business community Chamber of Commerce, and also to visit the City of Ariel and meet with leaders of the integrated business community there who are -- who founded the Chamber of Commerce to that end, and to visit the incubators that would -- that are helping build toward integrated business in the West Bank between Palestinians and Israelis.  I also would like to recommend that the Board visit the Negev or Galilee to see how the innovation authority has created a model that is promoting integrated business between Bedouins and Jews and Arabs and Jews in the north and south and how that will affect business in the West Bank.  I'd like to recommend that the MEPPA programming focus on providing funding into the West Bank that encourages Israeli and Palestinian business through technical assistance and training programs and to seed some of the funding for the startups in research and development.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Ms. Johnston.  Ms. Hiba Husseini.

Hiba Husseini: Thank you, George.  And also -- I'd take this opportunity also to convey my appreciation for Congressman Lowey for making this grant, this -- the funding available, and of course, the entire MEPPA team.

And I agree that we really face formidable challenges in bringing Palestinians and Israelis together, especially after the loss of trust over the last years.  And I think MEPPA can do a great deal, starting with the program on public awareness.  So, that would be recommendation number one, to make the MEPPA programs and projects known.  Especially to Palestinians, little has been made available by way of information.  The other recommendation I would make is an Area C.  Area C can be utilized both for the private sector, which I propose that we develop a logistics and distribution center, for example, in Area C.  These distribution centers require large space and employ large number of people and create a lot of IT-related systems.  So, I think logistics, distribution centers in Area C to serve the West Bank would be a very innovative idea and would bring the two sides -- the two businesses and create the integration that some of my colleagues have spoken about.

Hiba Husseini: Another Area C project I envisage is the youth -- joint youth education in -- like IT incubation in Area C.  So, take cool kids during the summer breaks and then create more advanced programs, maybe even leading to an IT university of sort or IT training center.  We need the skills.  And Israel has the skill, so I think jointly kids can start learning from the high school level moving forward.  Another idea is related to Jerusalem and the -- and tourism in -- religious tourism in Jerusalem.  And I think during the holy -- instead of the holy periods like we have today at this moment in time, instead of it becoming a point of friction and conflict, I think it should be a time for a celebration in a sense and a joint of getting together in terms of learning about each other through tourism, allow more Palestinians to come to Jerusalem during this time, and create mechanisms for people to see each other from that perspective rather than fighting over and creating violence and so forth and so on.  And we can create programs for that and ideas, and also enable civil society in Jerusalem, both Israeli and Palestinian to join hand in hand during these times of holy times.  And last is create perhaps a small grants program to enable Palestinian NGOs especially, because the asymmetry between Israeli NGOs and Palestinian NGOs is definitely there.  And we -- if we create specific small grants to bring up the capacity of Palestinian NGOs to join hand in hand with Israeli NGOs, then there would be a benefit.  So, I recommend starting with that as well as, of course, the joint progress people-to-people on both sides.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Ms. Husseini.  Next, Ambassador Mark Green.

Mark Green: Great.  Thanks.  A few thoughts and questions.  And I'll probably be like a broken record in bringing these up at almost every meeting.  I think it's very important for us to understand plainly what our role is as board members and more importantly what it is not.  What is it that we are asked to evaluate and make recommendations on?  That's first.

Secondly, this is a lot of money, but it's not a lot of money.  And so, I would encourage us as we think about how this project is approached that we don't get caught up and try to do a little bit of everything, because then we will see limited results.  We need to figure out what is working, figure out what is needed and double down and prioritize those.

Third, when it comes to economic development projects, which I think are extraordinarily important and really the way to go in terms of building trust and improving opportunity and human dignity, we need to understand what sectors are being prioritized, why, and on what basis.  What is the evidence that leads to the prioritization?

Fourth, what does success look like with each of the investments that we make?  Not merely good feelings, not merely inputs, not merely outputs, but outcomes.  What is it that we think success is?  And how do we measure that?

Finally, I think it's very important that we craft or we encourage the crafting of projects that are step by step and have intermediate evaluation, so that where projects are not producing results that we seek, we can make, of course, correction or the projects can either to shift their approach, or perhaps in some cases stop, and resources can be moved to a higher and better use.  The challenge for all of us is something that I used to say to my team at USAID all the time.  We cannot be in the business of wish projection.  We have to be clear-eyed, chart-penciled, hard-nosed, green eyeshade.  We need to evaluate each proposal or each sector and make sure that we're getting the highest and best use out of these limited funds and the taxpayers' resources.  Thanks.

George, Board Chair, back to you.

George Salem: Thank you.  Turning now to Sander Gerber.  The floor is yours.

Sander Gerber: Thank you, George.  Can you hear me?

George Salem: Yes, we can.

Sander Gerber: Right.  I recommend that MEPPA funds the creation of the Palestine independence, an independent Palestinian news agency to help engender a democratic civil society.  The law creating MEPPA states it is the sense of Congress that, one, building a viable Palestinian economy is central to the effort to preserve the possibility of a negotiated settlement leading to a single two-state solution with the democratic Jewish state of Israel and a demilitarized democratic Palestinian state living side by side in peace.  So, I'll emphasize a democratic Palestinian state living side by side in peace, security, and mutual recognition.  There can be no democratic Palestinian state without an independent free press.  For some time, the writers would need to be based outside the Palestinian territories to ensure that PA corruption and threats will not compromise journalistic integrity.  There would need to be a board of directors without influence from the PA.  The PA corruption is stealing the future from the Palestinian people.  The Palestine independent would shine a light on the corruption in its social and economic impact upon the Palestinian people.  Such an independent press is necessary to begin the steps to create a civil society with discourse that can lead to a democratic Palestinian state as articulated in the sense of Congress.  To further this goal and to include international participation, I recommend that MEPPA establish mentoring programs in the Gulf to develop Palestinian journalists.  Lastly, I recommend that MEPPA is monitoring the effectiveness for our programs including the evaluation of the impact of the Palestinian authorities' corruption on the economy and our efforts.  Thank you very much.

George Salem: Thank you, Mr. Gerber.  Rabbi Michael Cohen.

Michael Cohen: Thank you, George and Congresswoman Lowey.  With your permission, 10 recommendations from the field.  One, I recommend programs with shared common ground be used and continue to be used as a starting point for building relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, such as the environment, sports, arts, religion, et cetera.  Two, I recommend to focus on health, that we treat the region as one epidemiological unit when it comes to diseases and other health issues.  Three, I recommend that we work to gain more attention particularly through high level visits in the media that highlights the work of Israeli-Palestinian people-to-people NGOs of civil society, so their models have a greater positive impact on Israelis and Palestinians.  Four, I recommend that we support the enlarging and expanding of the circle.  That is to say it is critical that P2P organizations are going to be effective at changing the conditions for an agreement between Palestinians and Israelis to be reached.  They need to become better at not only having hurdles to Israelis and Palestinians who already buy and participate, but finding ways to engage those who have doubts.  Five, I recommend that we create smaller grants.  Well, grants for relatively larger initiatives and organizations are important.  For some organizations, smaller grants that are $1 million and below can be valuable to those mid-range and smaller crucial organizations.  Six, I recommend that we help Palestinian-Israeli civil society scale up.  Clearly, the fund allows for that, but it needs to be done strategically thinking both short term and long term including general organizational support.  Seven, I recommend that we encourage organizations to apply together for funding.  This is talked about a lot, but does not happen as often as it should.  Eight, I recommend that we have the most successful Israeli-Palestinian P2P NGOs mentor smaller new organizations as well as their retraining sessions for all of the organizations.  Nine, I recommend a working group for local Israeli and Palestinian experts to be established to map and access current state of affairs, including impact initiatives and challenges, as well as to make recommendations and evaluations.  Ten, I recommend we establish a mechanism to learn from successes as well as failures, sharing insights from both.  Eleven, I recommend that we leverage MEPPA as the -- for the creation of an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace, as the International Fund for Ireland created the foundations for the Good Friday Agreement.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Rabbi Cohen.  Rabbi Buchdahl, the floor is yours.

Angela Buchdahl: Can you hear me?

George Salem: Yes, we can hear you clear.

Angela Buchdahl: Okay.  Thank you.  With the relatively limited amount of funds we have as much money as it seems like, I'd like to recommend that we focus in particular on a model of investing in leadership.  We cannot serve everybody, and so I think investing in leaders who end up influencing their communities is where we should be spending our money.

And I'd like to focus on a few particular leadership groups in particular.  One, religious leaders.  I think that doing interfaith partnerships in some way we saw that actually the other side respects the other's religion.  And I think religious leaders are seen in not particularly political in certain ways, and so I'd like to see us to -- I'd like to recommend that we do some interfaith programming and also involve the religious sector and religious leaders.  I'd like to fund women in both sectors of society.  In my own experience, I find that women are actually more open to people-to-people kinds of work, and they are underrepresented in leadership positions.  And I'd like to lift up women leaders and train them.  I'd like to recommend that we also reach out to college students at universities both in the West Bank and in Israel, imagining partnerships between students when they are young leaders, and we can invest in them, and they can get to know each other and go back and go into their communities.  I'd like to recommend that we bring leaders together in groups perhaps for training, perhaps for conferences, so that there is a sense that we are creating a community, a sense of momentum that they're part of a larger movement that want to build peace.  I think that so many of these NGOs feel like they're kind of laboring in their own small fields and do not see themselves as part of a larger infrastructure.  So, perhaps we would -- I would recommend that we invest in some kind of umbrella organizations or conferences that bring leaders across these sectors together and help them understand that they're laboring together and sharing best practices and perhaps training.

I would also recommend that we bring new leaders in sort of, you know, obviously, targeting some of these that I've already named, but helping those who might not already know how to work the grant making process, the bureaucracy of applying for these kinds of funds, and bringing new leadership in, and perhaps training people so they can do this.  I love Rabbi Cohen's idea that we would have successful NGOs mentor smaller ones or new startups and help people understand even how the system works.  I would like to recommend -- this is a different suggestion, but I'd recommend programs in which one side can start to understand the legitimate claim that the other side has to being on the land.  It seems like this is a very big hole, and that we need to help people understand that.  And finally, I'd like to recommend that we invest in rigorous evaluation, so that we understand what's really working.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Rabbi Buchdahl.  Next is Mr. Elliott Abrams.  Elliot, the floor is yours.

Elliott Abrams: Thank you.  A couple of recommendations.  One, I do think it's not too soon to start thinking about international participation and perhaps start with the low hanging fruit, which I think would be countries like Norway and Sweden.  And if we can get a couple of international partners, then we can try the Gulf Arab states and see if they'd be interested.

I think we should avoid, frankly, dialogue for dialogue sake.  I did notice an interesting sentence in one of the documents that was sent, "No statistically significant relationship could be found between how large a component dialogue activities were relative to other activities in the project and the success of the project."  In other words, I think that means people have to be brought together to do things together not for the sake of dialogue.  If you look at our water project, I think that's a good example of this.  It's about water.  It will create dialogue and contacts among people who were doing something specific and positive.  I think we should think about sectoral activities, bringing together, for example, people in the medical field, pharmacists, doctors, dentists, nurses.  Hiba Husseini mentioned the tourism area and high tech.  I think we can think of journalists through an area that Sander Gerber mentioned.  So, I think we should be focused on getting people to do things together, not just on a dialogue for the sake of dialogue.

And I guess I will finish with a tongue-in-cheek recommendation, which is we have to avoid at all costs this reverse alphabetical order.  It's a terrible idea.  I don't know who invented it.  That's all I've got.  Thank you.

George Salem: [laughs] Thank you, Mr. Abrams.

And finally, as a member of the board, I want to share my thoughts and recommendations.  First, I recommend that USAID maintain to focus on what makes MEPPA different than the other peacebuilding efforts that they have funded as.  Never have we seen such substantial funding devoted to peacebuilding.  But as several of our board members have mentioned, it's a lot of money, but then again it isn't when you look at the overall scope.  But I am encouraged by AID's commitment to measurable development outcomes that help improve people's lives.  And I think that the metrics is something I've heard throughout these presentations.  That's the metrics, the measure of success is very important.  And to see those tangible results, in my opinion we need to have projects that focus on tangible goals.  In my experience, nothing accomplishes this better than joint ventures, whether in business, or in infrastructure, or in technology, or education, agriculture, or any other field.  I hope to see Palestinians and Israelis and others making profits together and creating employment opportunities at the high-tech sector and all of these other fields and protecting clean water together.  If we do this work well, we will see a measurable increase in high-tech job opportunities and effective new programs in STEM education especially for women and girls, and many other improvements in the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.  MEPPA gives USAID the tools to realize these goals, and I know that the relationships that emerge out of this work will help build a foundation for a lasting peace.

Second, I recommend we establish clear metrics, which is something I think several of the board members have mentioned, that would apply across all MEPPA programs, so we can know whether our approaches under the PPF are working and can learn and make changes based upon what we are learning in real time.

And finally, I recommend that AID begin exploring the process of internationalization by reaching out to other nations to gauge their interest in contributing to peacebuilding efforts, whether alongside MEPPA or as part of an international fund such as the Ireland Fund.  I am -- George Mitchell happens to be my law partner, and I learned a great deal from him about the Ireland Fund and its success as a precursor to the Good Friday Agreement.  We should be looking to internationalize.  And in my conversations around the region, I just returned from a trip to the Gulf, and it's pretty keen interest in exploring how we might all work together.  We still have a lot of work to do to build and launch programs, but we should look at these other like-minded countries.  And I hope that we can delve into all of these issues in future board meetings.  That concludes my personal intervention.

And I wish to thank all board members for their -- sticking with the three-minute deadline.  I think we did very, very well.  While every recommendation shared by each of you will go to USAID, it is important that we seek clarity and build consensus where we can.  With that said, I would like to begin the discussion portion of our meeting by drawing out some of the themes that I heard in these interventions and making sure we all have a shared understanding.

First, let me say it is clear from your interventions that we are all deeply committed to the work and that there are more areas where we agree than disagree.  In particular, I heard themes -- common themes involving education particularly STEM for women and girls, joint ventures in businesses, and somehow enabling Palestinians and Israelis together to make livelihoods together --

George Salem: -- through these joint enterprises.  Religious engagements, I heard that from several board members about the need to engage the religious communities.  And it makes sense, especially given the polling that we heard in one of the presentations about the respect each side has for religions.  The need for a serious evaluation and developing the civil society as an independent press, as well as mentorship and trying to create mechanisms to connect the people both in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem within the spaces, but also with their colleagues in Israel and elsewhere.  And along those lines, I think internationalism was a theme that we heard by several board members.

I took pride to take careful notes of what everyone had to say.  I would add, you know, the idea articulated by Ms. Husseini about expansion of programs for businesses in Area C is one I think that could be really fruitfully explored, as well as IT training, and perhaps even establishing a university there, as well as tourism.  Education was a repeated theme through several of the board members, as well as religious engagement.  And as I look through here, I think Ambassador Green provided real substantive comments about what success looks like and how we measure, which is, you know, as a private sector lawyer, metrics of measure are very important for judging success.

George Salem: And I think we need to develop a protocol for how we know not just touchy feely stuff, but actual metrics of measure.  And, you know, the challenge will be how we measure it and how clear-eyed we can be about it.  And there are -- I believe that covers the common theme.  As I said, each of your interventions will be reflected in the recommendations by board member, so it -- everything that you said will be recorded.  And I think that we have an opportunity to get the benefit of your wise counsel.  I think Elliott's suggestion about perhaps approaching Norway and Sweden, these countries that had been very generous in their support in the past would be a good start, but I do think that expansion to the Gulf could be very, very fruitful as well.

George Salem: And bringing the sectors together in order for joint profit and joint action would be very, very helpful.  So, Congress specifically tasked us to advise on the types of programs [inaudible] nationalize.  So, I think we will, in our work together over the next three years when we're all appointed for, have an opportunity to explore a number of those topics.  I think the staff, after this meeting, will begin to focus on putting together an agenda for a board trip, which I think would be an opportunity for all of us to see firsthand on the ground there what works and what doesn't and what areas need further development.

So, thank you all very much for a productive conversation.  But I want to ask whether there's anything that any board member would like to say in addition to what we have covered in our common themes and in your individual intervention.  I think it's -- each of you brings a unique perspective that is extremely important.  We're interested in your reactions.  And let me just ask this, is there any objection to internationalization or exploring internationally?  Does anyone have a concern?  I've heard several of us, including myself, raise it, and I think it's fruitful.  I see no objection. So, that will definitely be among the [unintelligible].  And what about reactions on the question of focus of broad programs versus small program?  I happen to think smaller programs of a million dollars or less are very, very impactful.  I judged that based on my experience for many years with the Middle East Investment Initiative, where we created 33,000 jobs, good paying jobs that fed over 200,000 Palestinians.  And I think -- and all of those grants were under a million dollars.  Well, they're not grants.  They're loans.  And the default rate is less than 1.5 percent.  If we have actual grants, we can actually do more with that sort.

But let me just open it up to any board member that wants to intervene with a particular comment.  Harley, do I see your hand up?

Harley Lippman: Yes.

George Salem: Well, go ahead.  Thank you.

Harley Lippman: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I just wanted to respond to what you started to say earlier about how you are echoing the sentiments of the group that results should be measurable.  And the only thing I wanted to add to that is also coming from the private sector, I built two businesses from nothing, I will say that certain things can be measurable.  We may want to get comfortable with the idea that some things may be subjectively measurable, such as if you have a group of Israelis and Palestinians that feel better about each other, that may be sometimes hard to measure.  But yet I think we would probably agree that that's success.  So, that's all I want to add to your good thoughts on.

George Salem: Thank you.  Anyone else?  Yes, Ms. Johnston?

Heather Johnston: Thank you, George.  And it's so good to hear from everybody.  And I really appreciated what Mark Green shared.  I think that it's so important that we're able to really evaluate, you know, what does the success look like as we're going forward and what are those -- what's the evidence of -- you know, that's going to lead to something that's really worthy of investment.  I really appreciated those thoughts.  And also in Ms. Husseini who seems to really understand the region of the West Bank and the great needs to bring business leaders together to open up the doors and Area C for being able to create incubator projects, those things that really bring Palestinians and Israelis together around business and to look for how we can create those training opportunities and those necessary skills.

And I would like to recommend -- make a further recommendation, if it's okay, George, to -- that we would -- that MEPPA might focus on being able to do fund the research in the West Bank, Judea, Samaria, to map the current ecosystem for integrated business, to better understand what currently exists, the current opportunities, and the gaps that need to be filled.  I know some people that could lend their expertise to that, that have been there for decades, and I would like to make that recommendation.

And then secondly, based on Ms. Husseini, after I listened to her, I want to also recommend that MEPPA fund those projects in the West Bank, Judea, Samaria, that bring Israelis and Palestinians together to develop necessary skills to succeed in creating integrated business.  That seems to be the shortfall.  I think she might agree with me on that.  Well, she had mentioned that it's a great need, and I'd like to be able to make that recommendation as well.  Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you.  Anyone else?  Yes, Mr. Gerber, please.

Sander Gerber: Hi.  On two points.  The first is I think the internationalization is a good idea.  This is not the issue of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.  It's not just a cause for United States' concern.  It's a cause for the broader international community, and so we should have involvement.  The second thing is I completely agree with putting an effort to have metrics and understanding of our success.  But along the lines of what Heather said, I think that we should have a focus also as to what were the barriers to the success.

Sander Gerber: And I think that we focus so much on where we're successful or not, but we should also look at what were the barriers to success.  Were there institutional barriers to success?  As you know, I believe that the PA corruption and bribery has stocked up a lot of the Palestinian economy and prevented its growth.  And so, I think we should have a focus on the barriers to success as well.

George Salem: Thank you.  Any other comments?  Seeing none, I want to thank everyone for a very productive conversation and excellent meeting today.  In a moment, I will turn it over to Deputy Assistant Administrator Doherty to formally conclude the meeting.  But I want to note that the full transcript of this meeting, the audio recording, and a shorter summarized version of the notes will be available online within two weeks.  The USAID team will also compile the Board's recommendations into a single document, circulate that to the board members, so that we can confer that ensures that it accurately reflects your individual contributions and our recommendations as a board.  And it would be shared internally at USAID, so the administrator and the teams in Washington and the field have the guidance they need to act.

And again, I want to thank everyone for the substance and the tenor of your remarks today.  I think this was a very -- this was an exceptionally good inaugural meeting.  And thank you.  I will now turn it over to DAA Doherty.

Megan Doherty: Thank you.  So, it's my responsibility to formally conclude the meeting.  But I will sneakily take advantage of having a microphone just to reiterate my profound thanks to all of you for the conversation today.  But honestly, not just for the conversation today, for all of the hours that you have spent preparing for this, for your good ideas, for your recommendations, and all the work that we're going to do together in the next few years.  So, thank you, and we look forward to our next steps together.

George Salem: Thank you all very much.

Heather Johnston: Thank you.

Male Speaker: Thank you.

George Salem: [unintelligible] all of you in your respect to religion.

Issuing Country 

Last updated: August 16, 2022

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