Donors Exceed Expectations: $4.48 Billion for Gaza
Donor nations agreed Monday to give a total of $4.481 billion to Gaza and the Palestinian Authority. The money will be transferred over the course of the next two years.
Most of the funds will come from the United States, European nations and Persian Gulf states. Saudi Arabia pledged $1 billion, the U.S. Plans to give at least $900 million, the European Union pledged $554.1 million, Qatar promised to donate $250 million and the United Arab Emirates $174 million.
Turkey, Italy and Japan also gave millions.
Dozens of countries and international aid groups attended the conference, which was called by the Palestinian Authority. The PA asked nations to give $2.8 billion. PA leaders have called to channel most of the money through the PA, which is based in Judea and Samaria.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pushed to open Israeli crossings to Gaza as well. “Our first and indispensable goal.. is open crossings,” Ban said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy pushed for open Israeli crossings as well, saying, “Gaza should not actually be a prison with open skies.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized that the money for Gaza would not go to Hamas, but rather would be used to rebuild structures demolished during Operation Cast Lead earlier this year, with a focus on vital infrastructure such as electric and sewage systems and on medical and educational facilities.
Donor nations have not yet determined how to rebuild in Gaza without going through Hamas. Hamas leaders have voiced their anger over their exclusion from the reconstruction efforts.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, expressed cautious approval, saying Israel supports efforts to help Gaza civilians. However, he said, “We definitely don't want to see the goodwill of the international community exploited by Hamas.”
The money raised Monday follows pledges of billions in aid to the PA in 2007 and the provision of free food, electricity, education and water to most residents of Gaza for the past several years.
The PA's fundraising efforts have been increasingly successful despite warnings from the World Bank, which concluded last year that foreign aid was used to increase the public payroll, and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), which warned that funding the PA and Gaza allowed Hamas and other terrorist groups to continue attacking Israel with no need to take responsibility for the economic consequences of their actions.