July 24, 2021

House Subcommittee Hearing zooms in on MEPPA and peacebuilding

On Wednesday, July 21st, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Terrorism held a hearing that represented a milestone in ALLMEP’s advocacy. For over fifteen years, ALLMEP has strived to ensure that Israeli/Palestinian peacebuilding receives the visibility, recognition and political support that this work—and its critical role in conflict resolution— demands. Wednesday’s two hour hearing, titled “People to People: Examining Grassroots Peacebuilding Efforts Between Israelis and Palestinians”, was an historic moment in that mission, with expert testimony from ALLMEP members and partners, and broad bipartisan support for their work throughout.

The hearing explored the power of people to people peacebuilding and the transformative potential of MEPPA, which commits $250 million in funding over 5 years. The witnesses included  Nada Majdalani, Palestinian Director of ALLMEP members EcoPeace, Meredith Mishkin Rothbart from our partners at Amal Tikva, Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen from another of our close partners, United States Institute of Peace, and Daniel F. Runde from Center for Strategic and International Studies. Their witness testimony emphasized the importance of civil society, and the critical role peacebuilding organizations have in conflict resolution. 

This programming should not be seen as a substitute for political change: but as a catalyst for it. As Ms. Kurtzer-Ellenbogen remarked, “Investment in this kind of work helps prepare the ground for constructive diplomatic agreements and prepares the ground for the agreements to take hold and take root… I have hope because I have seen the impact these programs have on the ground.” Time and again, the role of peacebuilders as key agents of change was emphasized, with investment in their work presented as a route out of the current impasse, opening up new political space. As Nada Majdalani of our members EcoPeace said: “civil society remains the key player to mobilize Palestinians and Israelis, even in the most difficult of times.”

The hearing focused not only on the importance of peacebuilding efforts, but on how MEPPA— the result of over a decade of ALLMEP advocacy— can enable the sector to reach its full potential. Over and over during the hearing, the timing and importance of MEPPA was emphasized. After May’s devastating war, a year and a half of pandemic, and the Trump administration’s policies on this issue: despair is growing. MEPPA is a tool that can rebuild hope. As Meredith Rothbart stated, “We’ve learned that civil society can break down this intractable conflict into manageable parts… MEPPA is monumental. It invites for the first time the possibility of creating a peacebuilding field that operates at the same scale as the conflict.”

This hearing comes at a crucial point in ALLMEP’s advocacy efforts to expand MEPPA’s impact by engaging U.S. allies to  join a multilateral project aimed at radically scaling the peacebuilding field. Earlier this month, Canadian Foreign Minister Garneau visited ALLMEP members, following Prime Minister Trudeau’s pledge of record-setting support for peacebuilding. And last month, 65 British Parliamentarians wrote to the U.K. Foreign Secretary urging him to work with the Biden Administration to create an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. As Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen told the Subcommittee, MEPPA “does allow for leveraging these funds for international participation. The idea of being able to leverage other international allies— particularly those that have other points of leverage— it’s not just about funding; it’s the different points of relational and political leverage with the different actors, and which when combined together really offer an opportunity… I think it’s an incredibly exciting time.” 

Chairman Ted Deutch concluded what he called an “historic hearing” with a rallying call that emphasized the opportunity at hand: “We can use this moment coming out of this hearing and this important moment with MEPPA to really ensure this is not just about funding some programs, but that MEPPA becomes central to our broader efforts to work toward peace in the region.”