In 1991, The Jewish Peace Lobby succeeded in getting the US Government to initiate a small-grants program in support of non-governmental Israeli-Palestinian cooperative activities. Initially known as the Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation Program (PICP), the name was changed in 1999 to the Regional Professional and Technological Cooperation Program (REPTEC). Through REPTEC, in addition to Palestinian and Israeli organizations, Egyptian and Jordanian organizations became eligible to participate in cooperative projects as well.
This program, in past years, had received uncertain commitment from the Administration. To keep the program alive, each year it has been necessary to gain from Congress, accompanying the Foreign Aid Appropriations Bill, specific report language calling for assistance to the programs Thus a very important piece of our work has been to lobby key Congressional offices in support of this program.
At the same time, JPL keeps tabs on the actual implementation of program funds. Funding decisions are made by US officials in Tel Aviv. Through the year 2000, 82 projects were funded at over $2.1 million. At JPL, we consider this program a great success.
The projects are remarkably diverse ranging from a joint Israeli-Palestinian puppet theater to meetings of hydrologists. The achievement of this funding, indeed the very existence of the program, rests thoroughly on the Jewish Peace Lobby. We conceived of the program, each year we garnered the Congressional and Administration support; we helped write the regulations and we saved the program when it seemed abandoned.
It should be noted here that in September 2000, the US State Department announced the availability of $10 million over two years in grant money for joint Israeli-Palestinian programs – The Wye River People To People Exchange Program. This represents an enormous expansion of American commitment in this area. JPL will continue to engage with policy makers to promote this effort and help ensure that it is effectively administered.