Bush to Seek $350M in Palestinian Aid (AP) By BARRY SCHWEID WASHINGTON 02/02/05 10:03 PM)
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WASHINGTON - Eager to help Middle East peacemaking and combat
Palestinian poverty, President Bush said Wednesday he would seek $350
million to support the Palestinians.
"The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian
territories are showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of
violence and failure," the president said, noting that he is sending
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region early next week.
He said the money would go toward political, economic and social
reforms for the Palestinians.
Bush administration officials have concluded that training needs to
be improved, and the Palestinians need more jobs and better
facilities, in order for peacemaking with Israel to have a chance.
Edward Abington, a former U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem who is a
consultant to the Palestinians, said Wednesday that Bush and Rice
were prepared to be generous in dealing with a financial crisis on
the West Bank and in Gaza.
Election of a new leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to succeed Yasser Arafat,
who died in November, has generated support from Israel and the
Egypt on Wednesday summoned the leaders of Israel, the Palestinians
and Jordan to a summit meeting next week, and they agreed to attend.
Rice, meanwhile, is due in Israel late Sunday after stops in Europe
for talks with allied and other leaders. Over about 24 hours she
plans to confer separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
and with Abbas. She had no plans to attend the four-nation summit
talks in Egypt.
"In many ways, the visit itself is the message," Abington said.
"The Palestinians will want to hear the details of what the U.S. is
going to do in concrete ways to rebuild their security services and
to deal with their desperate economic situation," he said.
Bush devoted part of his State of the Union speech Wednesday night to
his hopes for Middle East peacemaking. He was expected to ask
Congress for $350 million for the Palestinians; $225 million of that
appears to be new money.
Rice said Monday that peace was impossible unless the Palestinians
gained a state of their own that satisfies their aspirations. She
also said statehood was "within our grasp."
The Europeans immediately welcomed her remarks. John Bruton, head of
the European Commission in Washington, said Tuesday it was a very
European leaders have been urging Bush to assume a larger role in the
Arab-Israeli conflict. Their general view is that unless Israel
yields to Palestinian demands, anti-U.S. sentiment in the Arab world
will not subside. That message is bound to be conveyed to Rice as she
makes her way through European capitals before flying to Israel.
Edward S. Walker, president of the Middle East Institute, said, "I
definitely hear something new in there."
"She thinks there are going to be benefits for the U.S. interests and
for the president´s democracy agenda," the former U.S. ambassador to
Egypt and Israel said in an interview.
Referring to the Abbas-led Palestinians, Walker said: "This is
possibly going to be an even better example than Iraq in developing
democracy. The Palestinians have a better shot."
Shibley Telhami, of the University of Maryland, said, "Given there
have been positive events, it is almost certain that she would want
to signal this is going to be an important issue for her and for the
Telhami, in an interview, said, "People are going to listen to see if
there are substantive positions besides promises for an American
But already, the veteran analyst said, "Her position on a Palestinian
state in recent days has been far more clear than the administration
has provided in the past." (Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 02/02/05)
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