February 18, 2021

MEPPA: A New Tool for Middle East Peace

In December 2020, and after over a decade of ALLMEP advocacy: the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA) was enacted into law. This new fund will deliver $250 million over five years to projects that support peacebuilding and Palestinian economic development, and represents the largest investment ever in the region’s peacebuilders. You can read ALLMEP’s statement and a digest of the media that the initial news generated here. However, such a significant new development for Israeli/Palestinian peacebuilding has also now percolated into the public policy debate and the wider media conversation about the region, the Biden Administration’s emerging policy toward it, and relations between Israelis and Palestinians.  

 

In Foreign Policy, Carmiel Arbit details the increased polarization plaguing Israelis and Palestinians, reduced faith in a two-state solution, and the challenges that the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps have faced in recent years. Yet she explains how MEPPA presents a new opportunity for the Biden administration to make real change in people’s lives, and the potential inherent in its innovative multilateral elements:

“People-to-people programs, like those the Lowey fund is intended to support, are among the few opportunities the two sides have to engage with one another and confront the critical issues they face. The existing menu of programs is wide ranging, touching Israeli and Palestinian society at every level, often in creative ways.”

David Harary in Just Secruity does a deep dive into what MEPPA can do for Israeli and Palestinian societies via its dual-track civic and economic approach, pioneered so successfully via the International Fund for Ireland (IFI). Another innovation that MEPPA borrows from the IFI is its focus on multilateral partnership, which Harary notes can radically increase the already significant scale, and with much international interest already building among U.S. allies:  

“Moreover, economies of scale can be fully realized as other countries are able to support the fund. This follows the multilateral model of the International Fund for Ireland, which the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) used to advocate for the law by citing its role in helping bring peace to Northern Ireland. During a U.K. Parliament debate on the concept of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace last November, every minister who spoke welcomed the U.S. legislation and urged the U.K. to join. Many recommended that the U.K. take one of the international board seats stipulated in the enacted law, which states that “[t]he Administrator [of USAID] . . . is encouraged to work with foreign governments and international organizations to leverage the impact of United States resources and achieve the objectives of [the law].”

Rebecca Bardach in the Times of Israel presents the challenges that Palestinian and Israeli societies must face and overcome for there to be a significant political change, but also the hope that can be drawn from other successfully resolved conflicts, and from the dynamic organizations– including many ALLMEP members– already creating change at a local level. The claims that the conflict is intractable, or that there is no partner for peace on the other side, are not facts but perceptions. The result of decades of stagnation and diplomatic failure. She highlights how the work of ALLMEP members, strengthened by the resources soon available via MEPPA, can face these perceptions head-on and overcome them. 

“Perhaps most importantly, the MEPPA funds help loosen the hardened grip of apathy. Too many people have given up and given in to despair, cynicism or the blame-game.

It’s deeply understandable. It’s certainly much easier. Believing that there is nothing that we can do, and that everything is their fault and beyond our control, relieves us of responsibility, whether collective or personal. But we always have agency. Always. The work of civil society organizations is just one proof of many. These funds reinforce, invigorate and leverage changemakers’ sense of agency.”

Ruth Ebenstein describes the project “The Image of Abraham” in the New York Times,  which brings Palestinian and Israeli 10-year-olds to the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem. “The Image of Abraham” project is just one of hundreds of projects which will benefit from the increased investment following the passage of MEPPA.

“Today, even on the calmest days, Palestinian children often tell emotional stories of crossing the checkpoint on the bus ride in from East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem. But once inside the museum, they are free to traverse Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Canaan like local terrain. They collaborate on art projects and play icebreaker games that highlight teamwork. The language gap is overcome with hand gestures, translation and homemade Arabic-and-Hebrew glossaries.”

Though we at ALLMEP are immensely proud to see MEPPA become a reality, our work is just getting started. We are working with our members to raise their capacity ahead of this unparalleled investment and the opportunity it represents, and with governments around the world so that they can join this drive and help create a truly International Fund. None of this would be possible without our global network of supporters. Every donation to ALLMEP helps us accelerate this work to deliver resources to the region’s peacebuilders, and raise their capacity so that they can transform the reality around them. Please consider supporting this work, and joining our growing movement for peace