I want to thank the Indonesian government for hosting this conference and express our appreciation to Indonesia and Japan as the co-chairs. This conference is taking place at a critical time during the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. President Obama looks forward to hosting the visits to Washington later this month of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.
Secretary Kerry has spoken before about the economic benefits of peace, and I want to reiterate what he has said. There will be economic benefits for the future State of Palestine, for Israel, and for the region. A peace agreement will open the entire Arab world to the future state of Palestine and Israel, and vice versa. It will bring a new wave of tourists, foreign investment, and opportunity, not just from the Middle East, but also from here in East Asia.
As Secretary Kerry has noted on multiple occasions, one of the keys to a sustainable peace between Israel and a future Palestinian state will be a strong, private-sector led Palestinian economy. This meeting offers another opportunity for East Asian countries to pass on their invaluable experience and technical assistance to support Palestinian economic development.
Secretary Kerry believes deeply in the transformative power of private sector-led economic growth – to show to both sides that peace is not only possible but prosperous as well. As Secretary Kerry has reiterated, the economic track is mutually reinforcing to the current political negotiations and not a substitute for them.
In support of the economic track, the United States is working on a series of key measures: (1) Palestinian debt relief; (2) budget support to the PA; (3) High Impact Micro-Infrastructure Initiative (what we call the “HIMII”); and (4) the Initiative for the Palestinian Economy (IPE). Let me talk briefly about the HIMII and then about the Initiative for the Palestinian Economy.
To demonstrate that negotiations produce visible, near-term improvements in the lives of ordinary Palestinians, Secretary Kerry announced in New York last September U.S. support for the High Impact Micro-Infrastructure Initiative. In November, the Secretary announced that the United States would be providing $100 million for this effort.
HIMII projects will generate employment and visible improvements for communities throughout the West Bank. The initiative includes construction of, and repairs to, health clinics, roads, community centers, and schools.
The Palestinian Authority has identified additional HIMII projects for which Secretary Kerry is seeking an additional $50 million from other donors. I want to thank Japan for their announcement of support. Others as well – including Germany, Switzerland, and Spain– have also contributed. We believe this is an opportunity for the countries represented here in this room to make valuable contribution to the current negotiations.
In addition to the HIMII, I wanted to briefly mention the Initiative for the Palestinian Economy (IPE). We fully support this effort led by the Office of the Quartet Representative to fundamentally transform the Palestinian economy through large-scale private sector investment in eight key sectors of the Palestinian economy. Working with the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian private sector, and OQR, we want to identify and market projects to investors to demonstrate the tangible benefits of the initiative. The trade expo here is an excellent opportunity to begin this process.