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Thank you for the kind introduction.  Prime Minister Fayyad, Dr. Asali, members of the American Task Force on Palestine, and other distinguished guests, it is my  pleasure to be here for this momentous event.

I first want to offer my congratulations to Dr. Ziad Asali and the American Task Force on Palestine for their impressive achievements over the last five years.  In addition to the dollars raised for noteworthy causes such as the Palestinian health institutions, Dr. Asali has been deeply involved in the support of the Palestinian Investment Conference in Bethlehem this past May, and the Palestinian Business Investment Forum on October 14th.  ATFP’s work in developing lines of communication among the United States, the Palestinian Territories, Israel, and regional communities continues to make an important difference.

 I also would like to commend tonight’s honorees:  The Honorable George Salem, Dr. Adnan Mjalli, and Mr. Simon Sha-heen, for your exceptional contributions to, and support for, Palestinians.

 The United States is committed to achieving a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security.  The United States Agency for International Development’s assistance to Palestinians is critical to achieving this ever important goal.

Since 1993, USAID has provided Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza with almost $2 billion dollars through our assistance programs.  Our 2008 fiscal year budget stands at nearly $400 million dollars.  That figure includes $150 million dollars in budget assistance, which we transferred to the Palestinian Authority in March. 

USAID’s funds support important work in the areas of economic growth, democracy and governance, food assistance, education, health, and water supply.  We are helping to meet the critical needs for the Palestinian people and the priorities of Prime Minister Fayyad’s government. 

USAID’s assistance, along with other U.S. Government assistance, including support for the UN Relief and Works Agency, serves as an important component in supporting President Bush’s vision of a two-state solution. 

I am proud that the U.S. Government has fulfilled the $555 million dollar pledge we made in Paris to support the Palestinian people.

Let me highlight one recent achievement that illustrates USAID’s serious commitment to providing assistance to Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza. 

I am proud to report that, in September 2008, USAID completed construction of the Eastern Hebron Bulk Water Supply Project.  The $45 million dollar project has increased the potable water supply available to three municipalities in the Hebron Governorate.  The project included the construction of two deep water wells, two pumping stations, water reservoirs, and an extensive distribution system. 

As a side benefit, the communities also are enjoying 22 miles of new paved roads under which the pipes run.  The new system supplies 2.3 million cubic meters of drinking water per year and can be expanded to a yearly capacity of 5.1 million cubic meters.  It will benefit 552,000 Palestinians in the greater Hebron area.

Though developing infrastructure is just one of USAID’s many goals, this example highlights how USAID’s assistance is having a real and important impact in the lives of Palestinians.  This assistance is helping Palestinians to improve their livelihoods, augmenting the credibility of moderate leadership, and improving basic institutions to create a stronger Palestinian state. 

I would also like to emphasize the value USAID places on working with other partners.  In a world with ever increasing demands on resources, and with new and ongoing humanitarian crises and development needs, it is vital that USAID reach out to, and work with, important actors in the international business, governmental, and philanthropic communities in order to advance change.  This is a model we can bring greatest benefit to those we are trying to help. 

In December 2007, President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, and I officially launched the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership.  This Partnership --co-chaired by President Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute and other business leaders, including Jean Case, Lester Crown, Sandy Weill, and of course the distinguished Dr. Ziad Asali-- focuses on creating economic opportunities for the Palestinian people, particularly by helping educate and train Palestinian youth. 

Over the last eight months, this Partnership has brought together major private sector leaders, U.S. government officials, and leaders in philanthropy.  These efforts have been directly supported by the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sports, led by Minister Tahani Abu-Daqqa.

Working together, the Partnership has supported numerous investment and business development efforts, and the creation of a network of “Youth Development and Resource Centers” in the West Bank.  These four centers, and their network of up to 60 affiliated youth clubs, will serve thousands of Palestinian youth by offering leadership and life-skills training, service learning opportunities, career counseling, and various internet-based IT training programs.  

And tonight I can say that  we have seen significant progress.  To date, USAID has committed $12.5 million dollars to this effort.  We have completed rehabilitation work at two youth centers in the northern West Bank city of Nablus; construction is underway in the facility in Ramallah; and we have finished the design for the Hebron center.  Executive Directors have been hired for all four of the principal youth centers, and training and other capacity-building activities are underway. 

To complement these achievements, the Partnership and USAID have forged new relationships, and jointly developed youth programs with prominent organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Cisco, and Intel. 

Their remarkable generosity will provide for staff training and standards development, Internet connectivity, information technology programs, and software. 

The Partnership is an excellent example of how public-private partnerships can play a critical role in bringing peace and prosperity to a region with distinct challenges.

With the goal of a two-state solution in mind, USAID is also committed to opening up new opportunities for the American public to support Palestinians living in the West Bank.  In August, USAID formalized a strategic partnership with the American Charities for Palestine. 

This marks the first time that USAID has joined forces with a private sector entity to create a mechanism to facilitate American donations for charitable causes in the West Bank.  This relationship will directly contribute to the mobilization of U.S. private donations to improve the quality of health and education for Palestinians.

Dr. Asali, it is with great pride that I stand here this evening with you.  I have deep respect for the work and achievements of the American Task Force on Palestine, and once again commend tonight’s honorees.  Under your leadership, we can all be confident that the American Task Force on Palestine will continue to make an important impact in the lives of Palestinians.  I look forward to working with you to help both of our organizations meet their shared and ambitious goals.

Thank you.

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