Bipartisan legislation was introduced on Oct. 12 to “create the conditions on the ground necessary for an eventual end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Palestinian Partnership Fund Act was introduced by Reps. Nita Lowey (N.Y.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.). If enacted, it would establish a Palestinian Partnership Fund to conduct and finance joint economic initiatives and personal exchanges between Israelis and Palestinians.

The bill would also instruct the Trump administration to fully seek additional contributions for the fund from Middle Eastern and European nations, in addition to the rest of the world.

The Senate version was introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

Jewish and pro-Israel groups expressed mixed reactions over the proposed legislation.

Zionist Organization of America national president Mort Klein blasted it, saying “this effort is misplaced.”

“Congress has been seriously lagging behind the Trump administration’s historic and remarkably fresh reality-based approach to Israel and the Middle East, and this appears to be more of the same failed thinking,” he told JNS.

“It also wrongly promotes a Palestinian state that would surely be a terrorist dictatorship,” he said. “This is not the time to interfere with [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump’s foreign-policy initiatives, and this is no way for Congress to substantively try to shape policy outcomes.”

Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, said that while the legislation has merit, it misses a broader point regarding the conflict. “On the surface, this looks like a positive development,” she told JNS. “We would all like to see joint business enterprises between Israelis and Palestinians, and direct people-to-people exchanges.”

“However, the real lynchpin to a lasting and sustainable peace between the two peoples is not economic, but ideological, and as long as we do not address the issue of the constant and continuous incitement to hate and kill Israelis in the textbooks, classrooms, summer camps, Palestinian Authority-controlled television shows and newspapers, there will never be a true peace, that could endure for generations,” she continued.

“Another inherent problem is how do we vet the NGOs to make sure that they do not implicitly or explicitly encourage terrorism or participate in BDS?” posed Stern.

The National Council of Young Israel said the measure “is not in America’s strategic interest.”

“Though clearly well-meaning, we see no need for this legislation to benefit Palestinian Arabs, whose income from this program would provide more taxes paid to the Palestinian Authority that finances their pay to slay program that rewards Palestinian Arab terrorists who murder Americans and Israelis,” said NCYI president Farley Weiss.

“At a time when the Trump administration is cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority is not the time to provide more money, even to individuals in the Palestinian Authority,” he added.

Expand an existing framework

On the opposite side, the Alliance for Middle East Peace and the Israeli-American Coalition for Action applauded the act.

“Learning from successful models of the past, Congress has taken the bold step of ensuring that building peace from the ground up will no longer be treated as a mere afterthought within a larger political process,” said AMEP executive director Joel Braunold in a statement. “Though taken alone, the fund will never be sufficient in delivering the peace we all want to see, it will play the necessary role in helping create the social, economic and political circumstances within which peace can be secured and sustained.”

“The IAC for Action supports the Palestinian Partnership Fund Act of 2018—a bipartisan bill that will advance the path peace by facilitating people-to-people exchanges and economic partnerships between Israelis and Palestinians,” Shawn Evenhaim, the group’s chairman, told JNS.

“We are supportive of all diplomatic efforts by the U.S. government and America’s allies to create a viable path for peace,” said Evenhaim. “Israel has already establish[ed] industrial areas where Israelis and Palestinians are working together, and we believe these initiatives will help to expand what was already created to lay the framework for a future diplomatic solution to the conflict.”