Palestinians Would Get More Aid in Bush Plan (NY TIMES) By STEVEN R. WEISMAN WASHINGTON 02/03/05)
NEW YORK TIMES
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 - President Bush said Wednesday that the United
States would sharply increase the amount of its direct aid to the
Palestinians, channeling $350 million to rebuilding infrastructure,
paying salaries and shoring up moderate Palestinian leaders as they
discuss a new round of mutual concessions with Israel.
Mr. Bush´s announcement, a significant reflection of an increasing
administration role in the Middle East, was in his State of the Union
address as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepared to leave on
Thursday for Europe, Israel and the West Bank to discuss more steps
to be taken by Israel and the Palestinians to ease tensions between
Also on her agenda, administration officials said, is a plan to
enlist Europeans to help persuade Arab countries to increase aid to
the Palestinian Authority, for possible use in giving $100 monthly
stipends to poor Palestinians and for retirement benefits for perhaps
1,000 members of Palestinian militia groups.
"The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side
by side in peace is within reach, and America will help them achieve
that goal," Mr. Bush declared in his speech to Congress.
In another step to push the peace talks, disclosed by administration
officials before the speech, Ms. Rice is planning to discuss the
establishment of a three-part commission that will include the United
States to help monitor steps by Israel and the Palestinians to ease
For Israel, such steps would include lifting checkpoints and
roadblocks in the West Bank and generally easing restrictions on
The venture might also ease the sharing of intelligence among Israel,
the Palestinian Authority and the United States to stop terrorist
attacks, along the lines of an earlier model that involved the
Central Intelligence Agency and its director, then George J. Tenet, a
few years ago.
Still another extremely delicate issue to be discussed on Ms. Rice´s
visit, an administration official said, is what to do about
the "corridor" between Gaza and Egypt through which Israel says arms
and bombs are smuggled.
Roughly 750 Egyptian troops are to patrol the corridor after Israel
carries out its planned withdrawal from Gaza this summer. It is not
certain whether there may also be a multinational force in Gaza, but
the United States has in the past looked with favor on the
multinational force that has patrolled the Sinai Peninsula since
Israel withdrew from it as part of the 1978 Camp David accords that
brought peace with Egypt.
Mr. Bush´s aid announcement and Ms. Rice´s trip form part of a
strategy by the administration to sharpen the pace of Middle East
diplomacy since the election last month of a new Palestinian
president, Mahmoud Abbas. Over two years, many European leaders have
criticized Mr. Bush for not doing more to resolve the Israeli-
Direct American aid to the Palestinian Authority has averaged about
$75 million a year since the late 1990´s, when hopes were high for
Middle East peace. But since 2003, the United States has cut back on
aid, in part to punish Palestinian authorities for failing to
investigate the deaths of three security guards in Gaza that year.
Administration officials said that of the $350 million in new aid for
the Palestinians, $200 million would come from a supplemental budget
request for the current year to be submitted to Congress, and $150
million from the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in
Both sums would be subject to approval by Congress, where lawmakers
have been skeptical of American aid to the Palestinians, arguing that
much international aid has not been properly accounted for. The Bush
administration had some difficulty persuading Congress to go along
with a mere $20 million in new Palestinian aid announced in December.
Besides the direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, the United
States channels perhaps $100 million a year to Palestinian relief
camps run by the United Nations in Gaza.
Aid from Arab countries to the Palestinians is a sore subject for
Washington and for Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian finance minister,
Salam Fayyad. American officials say that while Saudi Arabia, Libya
and Algeria have delivered promised aid, Kuwait and various Persian
Gulf countries have not.
The shortfall on pledges, they say, is $400 million. Ms. Rice leaves
Thursday for an eight-day of trip, most of it in Europe but with a
concentration in Europe on the Middle East - which includes, with the
Arab-Israeli dispute, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the so-called "broader
Middle East" initiative for democracy in the Arab and Muslim world.
(Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company 02/03/05)
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