|HUD No. 00-149|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Monday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||June 26, 2000|
CUOMO SAYS HIS TRIP WILL STRENGTHEN U.S.-ISRAEL TIES
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said today he expects a new Binational Commission on Housing and Community Development that he helped create on a trip to Israel last week will strengthen ties between the United States and Israel.
Cuomo, who was sent to Israel by President Clinton, joined Israeli Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Levi in signing an agreement to create the Commission. The Commission is the first of its kind between the United States and Israel. It will bring American and Israeli experts together to learn from each other and to develop new ideas and projects that can be used to benefit both countries.
Cuomo and Levi will jointly chair the new Binational Commission and together develop a work plan specifying the areas of cooperation and involving officials from both government and the private sector in project implementation. Cuomo said those areas could include a future secondary mortgage market for Israel and sharing the U.S. experience in privatizing public housing.
"There is no doubt there is a wealth of information and lessons we can share and I am very excited to raise this to a new level and to make it a formal relationship," Cuomo said. "This is the fist step on what I am sure is going to be a long and productive road."
Cuomo met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to discuss the peace process, the new Commission and other topics. In addition, Cuomo met with Regional Cooperation Minister Shimon Peres and Interior Minister Natan Sharansky.
"Prime Minister Barak’s commitment to ensuring a lasting peace for Israel is unwavering," Cuomo said. "This commitment promises to pay enormous dividends to the people of Israel. The benefits of peace are not just what is written on paper, but what stability also means for many of the challenges facing Israel, such as the need for more jobs and more affordable housing."
Cuomo and Peres discussed ways for HUD to work with the Shimon Peres Center for Peace. With Sharansky, Cuomo discussed the establishment of a binational project for urban development. The project would create "sister city" relationships between the United States and Israel to help develop more productive cooperation between the Israeli federal government and local governments in Israel.
In Gaza City, Cuomo and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat discussed Middle East peace developments and other issues. Cuomo and Palestinian officials also talked about possible future joint efforts in housing finance and economic development, along with a trip for Palestinian officials to come to the United States to learn more about American practices in these areas.
In July, HUD will host a study tour that will take officials from the Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry, the Israeli Finance Ministry and "Amidar" – Israel’s largest public housing company – to several American cities to learn more about housing finance, public housing management, and building technologies. The Israeli Construction and Housing Ministry will host a similar visit to Israel by American experts from the housing industry later this year.
Also on his trip, Cuomo visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial in Jerusalem. The Secretary laid a wreath and added fire to the Eternal Flame, and later laid a wreath in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, in memory of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In addition, the Secretary planted four trees at American Independence Park in Jerusalem in honor of his wife, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, and their three daughters – Mariah, Cara and Michaela. The trees were planted in a grove named after the Secretary’s parents – Governor Mario Cuomo and Matilda Cuomo – and the late Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz and his wife of New York.
HUD’s increased international efforts under Cuomo mark a resumption of wide-ranging international activities by the Department carried out in the 1960s and 1970s. Other recent HUD international activities include assisting Central American and Caribbean countries in the aftermath of Hurricanes Georges and Mitch, and working with China on a housing finance pilot project to help establish a secondary mortgage market and ultimately securitize residential mortgages.