Ziad Asali
Point Four Conference Room, USAID Washington, D.C.
Signing Ceremony of an MOU between USAID and the American Charities for Palestine
July 31, 2008 - 11:00pm


Administrator Fore, our friend George [Laudato USAID Administrator’s Special Assistant for the Middle East], distinguished guests: this is a very special moment for us. The effort to put this agreement together started over six years ago, believe it or not. And it has been an off and on proposition. It accelerated the last one and a half years, under the special and able commitment that Administrator Fore has devoted to this project and we are very delighted that we will at last be sitting here to sign this historic document.

There are so many people to thank, I would spend my whole time thanking individuals who were involved. There are literally tens of people who have contributed to this effort, from the National Security Council to the State Department, Treasury, USAID and people involved in Palestine. People everywhere really have understood the significance of what it is we are trying to do here.

As you recall, many charities have been shut down in this country for reasons that had to do with security, and this has been a sore subject for all because there were no substitutes available to the public to express its generosity and its support to the Palestinian people and others. That is how the conversation started six years ago, and it eventually got resolved by what we are doing today.

We have established the American Charities for Palestine precisely to offer a safe, reliable and meaningful way for people to make their contributions with the full confidence that they can be sure not to be harassed and not to be questioned about their patriotism, or their contribution to the national interest.

The other thing that we wanted to do was to use this vehicle to tap into the generosity of the American people, and the generosity of the American institutions, to develop two specific sectors in Palestine: health and education. As some of you may know, the Palestinians have put together a national program for themselves for the development of the education sector and for the health sector, and we are very happy to work with them. It is a thoughtful and elaborate process that they went through both on the health and educational levels, and they had cooperation from the international communities including the World Health Organization for the health sector and the World Bank and other institutions on education.

In my recent visit to the Palestinian territories I met with both the Health Minister and with the Education Minister, and they are very happy and receptive, and are looking forward to the program. And knowing that USAID is going to be a part of this was a high level of assurance for them that this is real and substantive.

What we are left to do now is to change concepts and abstractions into implementable, reliable sources of support that the Palestinian people can see, can sense and will in fact understand for what it is: the friendship of the American people towards the Palestinian people, and the support for the moderates, for the reasonable people who understand that the future for Palestine is going to be in joining the rest of the world and living in peace with its neighbors.

So, I cannot emphasize enough to you how proud we are to be associated with USAID, and for all the support we have received in Washington. And for the anticipated programs that we will be offering to the American people and American institutions. And I particularly want to mention a concept that we are introducing here which is to partner with Health and educational institutions and to have them adopt health and educational institutions in Palestine in order to upgrade the quality of care, both in education and in health.

In short I want to thank everybody for what they have done, and I want to tell you that we will do everything we can to earn and sustain your confidence, as we are confident that your people in the field, under the leadership of Howard Sumka and members of his team, will be up to the task in helping guide this process through.

Once again thank you all very much and we appreciate being with you.




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