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» 03/02/2009
PALESTINE
Aid for Gaza being decided amid difficulties
by Paul Dakiki
Donors’ conference is underway today. It is likely to settle on US$ 2.8 billion in aid. But willingness to rebuild will be shaped by political problems like Hamas’ status as a terrorist organisation according the West, intra-Palestinian divisions, truce with Israel and the Saudi-Iranian fight for regional supremacy.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza which opened today in Egypt should provide at least US$ 2.8 billion in aid to the Palestinians. About US$ 1.3 billion should go for reconstruction this and next year and 1.5 billion to support the annual budget of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

At least that is the prevailing hope at the summit organised by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who has acted as mediator between Hamas and Fatah and between Hamas and Israel. About 75 nations are attending the meeting.

But some more or less openly acknowledged political conditions are attached to the financial pledges. Thus a lot is left unresolved.

First the United States and the European Union view Hamas (absent from the conference) as a terrorist organisation and refuse to have anything to do with it, let alone give them money.

"Hamas is not getting any of this money,” said State Department spokesman Robert Wood for Gaza reconstruction. The United States announced that it would provide US$ 300 million for reconstruction and US$ 600 million to support the Palestinian economy as a whole.

The European Union is also sticking to the same position, pledging US$ 554 million.

“We [. . .] expect that as in the past there will be one mechanism, the Palestinian Authority,” said EU Foreign Policy Representative Javier Solana.

This is obviously going to create some problems because the Gaza Strip is under Hamas control.

What is more, this common EU-US stance flies in the face of yesterday’s visit by Tony Blair, representative of the Quartet (United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia).

The second difficulty lies with Palestinians.

After Hamas wrested control of Gaza in 2007 Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads, fighting each other even during Israel’s latest offensive last December with each side arresting the other’s activists and the assassination in Gaza of members of Fatah, accused by Hamas of collaborating with the Israelis in targeting Islamists.

In anticipation of the donors’ conference Palestinian factions pledged to set up a national unity government which would allow them to bypass the Euro-American veto on funding for Hamas. But given past failures doubts remain.

Also at the start of the conference PNA President Mahmoud Abbas after thanking donors said: “We appreciate your presence and the financial, economic and technical support that you are giving to the Palestinian people, but we insist on the pressing need to achieve substantial progress towards a just settlement” with the Israelis.

The Palestinian leader urged the international community to ask “the next Israeli government” to “commit to a settlement based on the two-state solution and honour agreements that have been signed.”

Abbas’ request echoes statements made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said that US aid “cannot be separated from our broader efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace.”

This is closely tied to the EU-US demand that Hamas recognise Israel, a step the Islamist movement has refused to do so far.

The PNA and the West have also linked Gaza reconstruction on the reopening of border crossings with Israel, which Israel has linked to the release of one of its soldiers, Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas in 2006.

The various negotiations are thus interfering with each other. Indeed, the “success of the reconstruction of Gaza depends on several factors, including a truce (between Israel and Hamas) and reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian factions," President Mubarak said at the start of the conference

For him the “priority is to reach a truce between Israel and Palestinians” which is tied to their willingness to include a prisoners’ exchange.

Last but not least there is the issue of regional supremacy.

Saudi news agency SPA announced that the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman) are going to donate US$ 1.65 billion, a step which for many is an attempt to counter Iran’s pledge of US$ 1 billion and a manoeuvre to weaken Hamas because it is closely aligned with Tehran.


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See also
04/30/2010 ISRAEL – PALESTINE – US
Obama thinking about a conference to create a Palestinian state
11/18/2009 ISRAEL – PALESTINE
As Palestinian homes get demolished, new Israeli housing units are built
by Joshua Lapide
01/09/2009 ISRAEL – PALESTINE
United Nations votes for truce but bombs and rockets continue in Gaza
by Joshua Lapide
01/10/2009 ISRAEL - PALESTINE - UN
UN resumes distribution of aid in Gaza. Third week of war begins
01/25/2007 LEBANON
Lebanese government gets more than seven billion dollars from the West and moderate Arab nations

Editor's choices
EGYPT - ISLAM
What Tayeb and Sisi said is big step towards a revolution in Islam
by Samir Khalil SamirThe grand imam of Al-Azhar slammed literalist interpretations of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, as fundamentalists and Islamic terrorists do. He supports the urgent need for Islam's reform, especially in terms of teaching lay people and clerics. He also calls for an end to mutual excommunication (takfir) between Sunnis and Shias. Egyptian President al-Sisi chose to fight the Islamic state group after it beheaded 21 Coptic Christians, whom he called "Egyptian citizens" with full rights.
SAUDI ARABIA - ISLAM
For head of Al-Azhar, religious education reform is needed to stop Islamic extremismFor Ahmed al-Tayeb, it is urgent to come up with new educational programmes to avoid "corrupt interpretations" of the Qur'an and Sunnah. Islamic terrorism undermines the unity of the Muslim world. He blames Mideast tensions on a "new global colonialism allied to world Zionism". a speech by the Saudi king is read at the conference.
HONG KONG - CHINA - VATICAN
It looks like someone is trying to shout us down
by Card. Joseph Zen Ze-kiunThe widespread optimism concerning the dialogue between the Holy See and China is largely groundless. Some Chinese bishops unable to speak freely are asked "leading" questions. The key issues remain unresolved, namely episcopal appointments and the fate of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Benedict XVI's Letter to Chinese Catholics, also cited by Pope Francis, provides guidelines. No agreement is better than a bad agreement. What happened to Msgr. Cosma Shi Enxiang and Msgr. James Su Zhimin? Hong Kong's bishop emeritus, champion of religious freedom in China, delivers a vibrant reflection.

Dossier

by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
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