Jul 6, 2016

At long last, we've received permission to file full applications for Political Risk Insurance

Yes, at the State Department ... under their wing?
Yes, at the State Department ... under their wing?

Dear Friend,

After years of asking, Rebuilding Alliance is being granted permission to file full applications for Political Risk Insurance (PRI) to finance Palestinian construction, water delivery, and agricultural projects in the West Bank's Area C.  Despite the very real political risks facing Palestinian construction and agriculture in the 62% of the West Bank administered by Israel called 'Area C', until now, everyone has been blocked from applying for PRI.  However, following our meeting in May with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, we now have a green light to proceed.

According to OPIC, their insurance - combined with their financing options - allows U.S. businesses (including nonprofit organizations) to take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets, mitigating risk and helping them compete in a global marketplace. OPIC insurance provides innovative, comprehensive, and cost-effective risk-mitigation products to cover losses to tangible assets, investment value, and earnings that result from political perils including political violence and expropriation.  

With PRI, Rebuilding Alliance hopes to attract investment and donations at a much higher scale so to offer revolving loans to Palestinian villages,  women's associations, farmers' cooperatives, and Non-Governmental Organizations — including international NGOs — for their building of affordable housing and women's centers, their establishment of water delivery and irrigation systems, and maybe even for harvesting their olive trees and thereby cover their losses due to settler violence or failure of legal due process. 

Here's the go-ahead we received Mr. Steven L. Johnston, Managing Director, Political & Sovereign Risk in OPIC's Structured Finance & Insurance Department:

     Dear Donna, I have approved the registration for the water pipe project. You should have received a separate
     email this morning to this effect. That email also directs you to OPIC’s online portal for completing the application
     (Form 52). You will need to log in and complete and submit the application. 

Mr. Johnston goes on to write that they are allowing Rebuilding Alliance to file the full application for our Rebuiding to Remain affordable housing finance program in Al Aqaba Village and he encourages RA to resubmit our preliminary application for the Rural Women's Restaurant project too.

Each application is something similar to a business plan so there's lots of work ahead. I would like to complete 3-4 applications by the end of this month, so to have review, feedback and yes, approval, before September 21st.  That's International Peace Day, the day when our delegation of Palestinian children will be addressing Congress with their Pinwheels for Peace.  If the U.S. is to keep their villages standing, let's have the Political Risk Insurance in place for key projects in each of their villages so to offer these children tangible evidence that the U.S. government cares.

Thank you again for your support for our Rebuilding to Remain affordable housing finance program in Al Aqaba Village.  You believed in us from the start and that support, along with persistence and good advice along the way, opened doors. 

I'll keep you posted as we move forward.

Sincerely,

Donna

P.S.  There's a lot of work ahead and no guarantee of success.  However, with the Peace Process in shambles, this tangible effort to help Palestinian families hold on to their homes and land by enlisting insurance companies in their recovery feels worth the effort.  As James Thurber once said, "Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness."

Corridors of Power: we held 27 meetings in WashDC
Corridors of Power: we held 27 meetings in WashDC
Our hands-on Congressional briefing at the Senate
Our hands-on Congressional briefing at the Senate
World Bank's Multilateral Investmt. Guaran. Agency
World Bank's Multilateral Investmt. Guaran. Agency

Links:

Jun 14, 2016

Palestinian planning rights

Dr. El-Atrash explains a map of the West Bank
Dr. El-Atrash explains a map of the West Bank

Dear Friend,

We are back in the office after a busy week of meetings on Capitol Hill. From May 23rd through 27th, we met with 25 Congressional offices, running back and forth across the Capitol between the Senate and House office buildings. We also met with a member of the National Security Council (an advisor to President Obama), the State Department, and more, speaking about Palestinian planning rights. We were joined by Dr. Ahmad El-Atrash, a Senior Planner at UN-Habitat in Ramallah. He is an expert in the master planning process for Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank, and all the complex legal proceedings that are involved in it.

We described the shocking and disturbing upswing in demolitions since the beginning of 2016, and why it is ocurring. Many of the Congressional staffers we met with shared our concern and assured us they would speak with their boss about how they could join us in advocating for Palestinian planning rights. 

There was a possibility that a senior Senator would sponsor a Dear Colleague letter that we drafted. The letter called for intervention to prevent the demolition of Al Aqaba Village's water network, to assure due process for Umm al Kheir, to press for recognition of Palestinian master plans and to recognize Palestine's regional planning committees in the master plan approval process.  As it stands, only three of 108 submitted master plans have been approved in the past six years. The plans are technically sound, and several have already passed the period of public comment. There is no reason why these plans should not be approved so that building permits can be issued and construction can begin in accordance with zoning. Israel's apparent plans to expand and establish new settlements on private land, and ultimately annex the West Bank, are blocking their approval of Palestinian master plans.

Representative Eshoo's senior staffer told us that one major problem is that many in Congress have forgotten that the Israeli settlements are illegal. These illegal settlements and outposts are pushing Palestinian families off the land that they rightfully own, and are doing so largely without reproach from members of Congress or the international community. She asked us to press President Obama to exert his leadership on this issue and so we did when we met with senior staff at the National Security Council the next day.  

We asked each Congressional office that we visited to call the Israeli Embassy and the State Department and urge them to do all they can to: 

1)    Assure Palestinian villages their right to critical services, especially water and electricity and express concern that ‘Stop Work Orders’ have been issued against the water main network that will connect Al Aqaba village, in Area C near Tubas, to the Palestinian water grid. Al Aqaba is a model of peace under the leadership of Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq Sbaih. They have been barred by the Israeli Army from digging their own wells and in January 2016, the High Court of Israel agreed to hear their petition to connect their village with water. 

2)   Restore due process to assure Palestinian families and villages the right to appeal demolition orders in Israeli courts instead of blocking their petitions from reaching the courts as recently occurred in the Palestinian village of Umm Al Kheir.

3)    Approve the 108 master zoning plans filed by Palestinian communities to date, starting with the eight master plans that have completed the period for public comment.

While in Washington, DC, we also spoke with OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation) and the World Bank's MIGA group (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) about the possibility of obtaining political risk insurance for Palestinian communities. We were happy to learn that crops can be insured- imagine, an insurance fund for Palestinian olive trees, and World Bank and OPIC insurers fully engaged to prevent destruction and demolition.  Remarkably, after years of being blocked, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation is now inviting Rebuilding Alliance to go ahead and complete full applications for construction projects in Area C, including water pipes.

Overall, it was a very successful (albeit exhausting) trip. A staffer told us that walking the halls of Congress is the most effective way to advocate. He said that his office is frequently visited by right-wing lobbyists who speak for the Israeli settler movement, but rarely by advocates for Palestinian rights. Nothing will change unless more of us speak up and show up so that Congress knows we care.

I am beginning work now to schedule our next two speaking tours this fall, and for that I ask your help. Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 15th, GlobalGiving is matching all donations to the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages. They are matching donations by 50% up to $1,000!  

With your help, Rebuilding Alliance will bring Palestinian children to Congress for International Peace Day in September. We're asking President Obama to meet with them and use their visit bring his leadership forward to keep their villages standing. In addition, in October, we're bringing Palestinian planners on tour to speak at university architecture departments, and join peace groups for visits to local Congressional offices.

Thanks for staying tuned while we were running around Washington, and a special thanks to those who donated frequent flier miles. An extra special thanks to those who called their Senators and Representative to ask them to make those two calls! 

Best,

Tamsin

 

P.S. You'll see that we're increasing our engagement in the international "Pinwheels for Peace" project. Attached is our intern Lamia's report on her experience making Pinwheels for Peace with the girls at Al-Isawiya School. 

A "hallway meeting" with Congressional staff
A "hallway meeting" with Congressional staff
Donna and Dr. El-Atrash speak at a Senate briefing
Donna and Dr. El-Atrash speak at a Senate briefing
At Rep. Eshoo's office w Hannah Murphy, Kyle FCNL
At Rep. Eshoo's office w Hannah Murphy, Kyle FCNL
Great to have Amir Abu El-Hawa join us, MIGA mtg
Great to have Amir Abu El-Hawa join us, MIGA mtg
Selfie in Congress
Selfie in Congress
A silver lining, a US flag
A silver lining, a US flag
Only 3 master plans were approved in 6 year's time
Only 3 master plans were approved in 6 year's time

Links:


Attachments:
Mar 15, 2016

We've scheduled 20 Conference Call Briefings with Congress -Join In!

Aysar, at home with his new sister, in Susiya
Aysar, at home with his new sister, in Susiya

Dear Friend,

Good news: on March 10th, U.S. Consul General Donald Blome visited Umm al Kheir, Susiya, and several other villages slated for demolition in the South Hebron Hills. We have been pushing for this to happen, because it represents the start of significant U.S. engagement to mitigate the recent upsurge in the demolition of Palestinian homes and villages by the Israeli Army. 

The Consul General's visit was a step forward, but we must press for more. There is a way to keep Umm al Kheir, Susiya, al Aqaba and all the other Palestinian villages standing in Area C, but it requires bold advocacy from you as an American constituent.  

If you haven't registered already, please sign-in to join a half-hour Contact Congress Briefing with your Senators and Representative’s staff.

We started this week with a briefing with Sen. Marco Rubio's staff and we've scheduled almost 20 more so far.  We're working to book 100.  These calls are an advocacy breakthrough.  To see the schedule and join, go to www.RebuildingAlliance.org and just scroll down to the calendar.  Click Count Me In! to join the calls.

To each legislator, our ask is simple: on behalf of your constituents, please call the U.S. State Department and the Israeli Embassy to express concern about the Palestinian villages in Area C and to show support for their right to plan and live on the land they own. 

Congressional intervention already makes all the difference in keeping demolition bulldozers away from Susiya, Umm al Kheir, and Al Aqaba. These conference calls have proven to be a remarkable tool for influencing foreign policy. Please join us. Constituent by constituent, legislator by legislator, this is our best hope to keep Palestinian villages standing.

One more thing: this Wednesday, MARCH 16TH, GlobalGiving.org is matching all donations to our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages. Thanks to your support, our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages helped keep Susiya standing.  We're making real progress and we need your support again now to ramp-up.  Please set your alarm and give on Wednesday 



Sincerely,

Tamsin Avra

Contact Congress Coordinator, Rebuilding Alliance 


P.S.    Questions? Suggestions?  Please call me at 650 651-7165 or reply to this email.

P.P.S.  There are so many heartbreaking photos of demolitions ... instead we are sending you this photo that Donna took of Aysar, the 14-year-old who presented his Pinwheel for Peace to members of Congress in Washington, D.C. last year.   Aysar's U.S. visa states he may visit twice more in 'September with Rebuilding Alliance' — and so we begin planning to bring Aysar and other Susiya leaders on speaking tour for International Peace Day again this year and next.
 

Links:

 
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