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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Welcome, everyone.  It’s very good to be here with you at the America House, and I’m really grateful for this opportunity to get a chance to hear from you as leaders of civil society here in Jerusalem.  Civil society is a critical pillar of any democracy, and as leaders, as advocates for the Palestinian community in Jerusalem, you’re playing an incredibly important role.  I know it’s also one that faces unique and, indeed, painful challenges.

You’re leading social organizations.  You’re running local businesses.  You’re representing families facing evictions and demolitions.  You’re lending your legal expertise to the peace process and bringing together Israelis and Palestinians through peaceful dialogue and cooperation.  I am eager to hear about the work that you’re doing, the challenges you’re facing, and how the United States can do more to support you in your efforts – something that we’re very committed to doing.

So to each and every one of you, welcome.  Thank you for being here and I’m looking forward to the conversation.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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