Thursday, March 5, 2009

US Offers $0 for Gaza Reconstruction - Paul Woodward

The National, March 2, 2009 - ....In the aftermath of the war on Gaza, little long-term reconstruction has taken place and aid received has barely been enough to keep residents fed and temporarily housed.

The Financial Times said: "both the Palestinian Authority and international experts agree the money will make little difference in Gaza unless Israel agrees to open its border crossings into the strip.

"Fearing that Hamas will benefit from an increased flow of goods into the territory, Israel has so far only allowed a small quantity of humanitarian supplies into the strip.

"The crucial problem at the moment is not related to funding but to access," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner the European Union external affairs commissioner. "In the aftermath of the crisis, a clear priority remains the immediate and unconditional reopening of all Gaza crossings on a regular and predicable basis."....

Daoud Kuttab, blogging with the US secretary of state's press corps in Sharm el-Sheikh, said: "In a press briefing on the eve of the 'International conference in support of the Palestinian economy of the reconstruction of Gaza' Robert Wood, the acting US state department spokesman failed to convince the US traveling press corps and a Palestinian blogger that America is indeed coming to help the people of Gaza.

"Wood tried to describe how the 'over $900 million' that will be pledged in the conference to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh Monday will be spent. But it was clear that most of this money will not make it to Gaza. The spokesman was also not sure how much of the 900 million dollars are old money (already pledged by previous administration) or new money.

"Apparently only one third of the monies to be pledged by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will make it to Gaza. Wood told the press corps that $300 million will go for urgent humanitarian needs in response to the UN Gaza appeal. He indicated that this money will be channeled through UN agencies, and through USAID. A further $200 will be pledged to help cover basic budget support of the Palestinian Authority. The PA is expecting a $1.6 billion deficit in 2009. A further $400 million will be provided to support the Palestinian Authority's Reform and Development Plan. These funds will go into institutional building as well as in support of the public security efforts of General Dayton. Dayton, a senior US military officer has been leading an effort to revamp and rebuild the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.

"Wood and the US secretary of state appear to be camouflaging their plans to bolster the Palestinian Authority's grip of power in the West Bank with the waving of a hefty pledge, the majority of which will never make it to help the people of Gaza."

Paul Woodward is the Editor of War in Context and Managing Editor of Conflicts Forum.

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