I recently spoke on a panel about U.S. support to Palestinian institution building at the 2013 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. The conference draws about 12,000 community and student activists from all 50 states, as well as many Israeli and American policymakers and thought leaders each year.
Speaking at the conference provided an excellent opportunity to discuss the importance of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its key role as part of the two-track U.S. approach to Middle East peace. This approach couples resumed political negotiations to establish a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel with support for Palestinian institution-building so that the new state has the capacity to govern its people justly and provide needed services from its first day.
The United States is the leading provider of bilateral assistance to the Palestinians. We are working closely with the Palestinians to help them build the governance structures and the economy of a future state. We do this by working with all levels of government, with the private sector and with civil society. And we do so in a way that benefits not just Palestinians, but Israelis as well. From developing water infrastructure to connecting Palestinian ICT firms with Israeli companies to working with the justice sector on critical rule of law matters, we are bringing together Palestinians and Israelis to address important issues of mutual concern.
Our work with the PA helps it deliver basic services to the Palestinian people. Since 1994 the United States has helped the Palestinian health system offer improved emergency services, enhanced diagnosis and treatment, and improved administration including an integrated health information system; and ensured that more than a million Palestinians had access to clean drinking water. When people see that their public institutions work—when a village gets piped water for the first time or a businessman interacts with a well-trained broker who makes the customs process easier—this helps build confidence in the institutions of government.
This work is helping to build a more democratic, stable and secure region, which benefits Palestinians, Israelis and Americans. The interest shown by the people who came up to me following the presentation who wanted to engage further was inspiring. It demonstrated the value in USAID continuing to share the story of our support for Palestinian institution building, as one part of the two-track approach, that coupled with resumed political negotiations, can help lead to the establishment a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.