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Remarks With U.S. Business Leaders and the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership After Their Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 29, 2008

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(9:45 a.m. EDT)

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. I would like to welcome the co-chairs of the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership: Walter Isaacson, Ziad Asali. I’d like to welcome Jean Case. There are two of the co-chairs who are not able to join us, but I would like to acknowledge the work of Sandy Weill and Lester Crown as well.

And I would like very much to welcome several members of the business community who have met with us to talk about the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership and the important work that this partnership can do to help sustain the momentum toward peace in the Middle East.

As you know, the Annapolis process envisioned several tracks. There is, of course, an important -- all-important track to create the Palestinian state to live side-by-side in peace with Israel. Those political negotiations are underway. There is a track to work on the ground to improve the daily lives of the Palestinians in terms of movement and access and in terms of Roadmap obligations. But there is also a very strong commitment to do something about the economic prospects for the Palestinian people, a people who are very well educated, many of them, very ambitious, many of them, but where economic opportunity has very often been lacking.

That effort with former Prime Minister Tony Blair and our contribution to the international effort, the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership, is well underway. And it was my great pleasure today to meet with these representatives of business and those who have been involved in the partnership. I should mention George Salem is standing there. And I want to just acknowledge, too, the work that Rob Mosbacher and OPIC have done.

Henrietta Fore and I launched this partnership, of course, with President Bush, and I think we have been really quite taken at how much work has been done and how much progress has been made. I’m going to turn now to Walter, who is going to describe the various aspects of the partnership. But we here at the State Department believe very strongly that while government can do a lot, government cannot do it all. And in matters of peace, in matters of economic development, it is absolutely crucial to have the leadership and the partnership of the private sector. This is one of our most important public-private opportunities, and I am just delighted to be with these great leaders.

Walter.

MR. ISAACSON: You may want to mention Bethlehem.

SECRETARY RICE: I thought you would do that. All right? Thank you. (Laughter.)

MR. ISAACSON: Okay, all right. We’re trying to get people to go to Bethlehem. We want you to be there.

Well, I think Benjamin Franklin, my old friend, would be proud because, as one of your predecessors, he realized that you had to have a political component, which you and Tony Blair have been doing so well in terms of pushing the politics, and especially you in the State Department in terms of the peace agreement. But in order to have a political settlement, you also have to have stability, you have to have economic opportunity, you have to have educational opportunity. And that’s what his mantra was in the founding of this country, and that’s what -- we hope we’re just providing some of that counterpoint, which is to have the economic and educational opportunity.

We had a great meeting just a few minutes ago with a lot of business leaders, some of them here. We heard from the people from Coca-Cola about -- I think it was 60 percent growth rates they’ve been having in the Palestinian territories. We heard from the people from Intel and Marriott and others about the opportunities. And so we hope we can see the private sector be a sustained engine for growth and for the economic and educational opportunities.

The partnership has been working on this since December when you, Administrator Fore and then President Bush announced the partnership. We’ve had a few key initiatives that we’re pushing on, and we’ll have people here who will be willing to talk about that afterwards.

We’re making lots of advances on the business development component. For example, we’ve been talking about a call center that would work in the east part of Jerusalem, where there’s large unemployment, but a great educated population that could provide call center services for businesses around the world to reach the Arabic-speaking market. We have many corporations interested in being part of that.

We also had a good exchange this morning on trying to set up some concept for a venture fund, where people can invest in the West Bank. This would complement something that’s already been launched, which is the Middle East Investment Initiative, which supplies small business loans for, I think, 50,000 to almost up to $500,000 now for businesses operating in the West Bank. That was set up by Rob Mosbacher at OPIC, as well as by Jim Pickup, Berl Bernhard and others with The Aspen Institute, to create this public-private partnership for an investment fund.

There are eleven projects already in the pipe – more in the pipeline. And so far we’ve -- I think $1.6 million of loans have already gone out the door. So we’re not just talking about things. These are things that are already in the works.

As the Secretary has said, we’re also actively supporting the Palestinian Investment Conference. George Salem, Ziad and others have been involved in that. Dr. Fayyad, the Prime Minister there, has called this business conference. We have a lot of sponsors. I think this morning at our meeting we got a few more sponsors involved. And I think the Secretary has asked us to go there and represent the U.S. Government and even, I hope, to be a co-chair of that delegation, which I was asked to do by the State Department. And I think Henrietta will definitely be with us. We always travel together. And so, we will be represented, as will Tony Blair, Bernard Kouchner and others from the international community, to support this conference.

And by the way, anybody in the American business community who wants to help support this conference, we’re quite open to have more people come along. We’ve been working with Jean Case, in particular. She’s been doing a spectacular job to do youth centers on the West Bank. The youth centers are things that USAID, under Henrietta and – I see George Laudato somewhere here and many other people. There’s George, hiding behind Ziad. (Laughter.)

These are – we’re going to start with five major hub centers in the West Bank, hopefully, have 50 soon. This is another public-private partnership because Henrietta’s agency is funding the building of these centers, but corporations and NGOs, from the Boys & Girls Club to Intel to Cisco and others, are thinking of ways they can be involved in teaching in these youth centers, providing the technology for these youth centers, providing the programs in these youth centers.

In sum, we’re trying to do the three components that the Secretary tasked us to do at the very beginning: youth leadership, business development and support for this business conference. They’re all intended to support the political work that Secretary Rice and others are doing for the peace process. As she said, it’s only by a negotiated solution and a two-state solution that we’re going to have the conflict end, but the only way we’re going to get to that solution, is to also have stable societies where there are opportunities for economic growth. So I appreciate the opportunity, as we all do, to work with you on this. Thanks.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you.

2008/335



Released on April 29, 2008

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