Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rebuilding Pits Hamas Against Abbas as US, Iran Clash, March 1, 2009 - ....Now, a new battle is emerging over who will rebuild the roads, buildings and water lines wrecked during Israel’s offensive: Hamas, the militant Islamic movement that rules Gaza and is backed by Iran, or Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah group, which controls the West Bank and is favored by the U.S., Israel and pro-U.S. Arab countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“The wider picture is who will set the tone in the Middle East: whether it’s going to be Iran and its allies or the U.S. and its allies,” said Martin Kramer, a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies in Jerusalem.

Egypt is hosting an international donors conference today in Sharm el-Sheikh, which the U.S. said it backs as a show of “support” for Abbas’s reconstruction efforts. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived yesterday for the meeting. Hamas isn’t invited.

At a Feb. 25 news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who heads the Fatah-backed Cabinet, said he will ask for $2.8 billion to rebuild Gaza.

Seeking $2.5 Billion

Mohammed Awad, the planning minister for the Hamas-led government in Gaza, said the same day that he seeks $2.5 billion. “We reject the idea of sending the donations to redevelop Gaza to the Palestinian Authority,” Mussa Abu Marzuk, deputy chief of Hamas’s politburo, said Jan. 19, the day after the war with Israel ended.

Hamas and Fatah both want to reap the political benefits of guiding the reconstruction in time for the next scheduled Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2010. They ruled together in a national unity coalition until Hamas seized full control of Gaza in 2007. While each side now claims to be the legitimate Palestinian government, their representatives began meeting in Cairo last week to discuss forging a new coalition....

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