|SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt --
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday will
pledge about $300 million in U.S. humanitarian aid for the
war-torn Gaza Strip, plus about $600 million in assistance to
the Palestinian Authority, a U.S. official said Sunday.
State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood told reporters
traveling with Clinton Sunday that she would announce the
donations at an international pledging conference at this Red
Sea resort. The conference is seeking money for Gaza and the
Obama administration officials had indicated last week that
the U.S. was preparing to pledge $900 million in assistance
for Gaza, but Wood's description of the plan Sunday indicated
that the only portion going directly to rebuilding Gaza was
Wood said that while all of the money is subject to
approval by Congress, the intent is to provide about $200
million to help the Palestinian Authority shore up a budget
shortfall and another $400 million to assist Palestinian
institutional reforms and economic development. Wood said some
of the $400 million might wind up aiding Gaza, but he said
that would depend on the Palestinian Authority.
Some portion of the $900 million total U.S. pledge had
already been budgeted for 2009, Wood said, adding that he
could not immediately provide a breakdown.
Getting U.S. humanitarian aid quickly to Gaza is
complicated by the U.S. refusal to funnel it through the Hamas
militant movement that rules the area. The U.S. considers
Hamas a terrorist organization. Wood said the U.S. aid that
does not go directly to the Palestinian Authority would be
funneled to Gaza through international organizations and
The secretary of state also carried hopes of finding a path
toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Clinton arrived at Sharm el-Sheik after an overnight flight
from Washington and went quickly into a meeting with the Obama
administration's Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, who
is touring the region.
Clinton also will visit Israel and meet with Palestinian
leaders in the West Bank, including Palestinian President
Donors at the Sharm el-Sheik conference will be asked to
fund a $2.8 billion reconstruction plan put together by Abbas'
prime minister, Salam Fayyad, an internationally respected
economist. Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to
exist, was not invited.
Fayyad wants most of the money funneled through his West
Bank-based government. He already administers huge sums of
foreign aid _ $7.7 billion for 2008-2010 _ and has been
sending $120 million to Gaza each month for welfare and
salaries of Abbas' former civil servants. Other aid, such as
for rebuilding homes, would go directly to the bank accounts
Hamas prepared its own 86-page Gaza reconstruction plan and
sent copies to the Arab League. But even if bypassed by the
donors, as is likely, Hamas would benefit from any aid that
eases pressure on it to help the needy.
Israel's offensive to halt Hamas rocket fire from Gaza
ended with a cease-fire Jan. 18.