At Gaza donor conference, Clinton vows to pursue Middle East peace
The US pledged $900 million, but said the money would not go to Hamas.
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"There is a broad consensus on the need to have the PA involved," says Jan Dybfest, a senior adviser to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and a special envoy to the conference, which was co-organized by Norway. "The mechanisms that already exist for channeling money through the PA can still be used when it comes to Gaza."Skip to next paragraph
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UN funds will be earmarked for repairing public utilities such as healthcare, schools, and water as well as damaged infrastructure and the removal of rubble, says Mr. Dybfest.
"There will be a focus on immediate needs," he says. "This is work that needs to happen for people's daily lives to continue."
During the conference, Clinton met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. She also attended a meeting of the so-called Quartet of international mediators — the US, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia — seeking to forge peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
"We have worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure our funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands," Clinton told the conference. She did not explicitly mention Hamas but alluded to extremist elements.
"It is time to break the cycle of rejection and resistance," she said, "to cut the strings pulled by those who exploit the suffering of innocent people."
But aid workers and observers are uneasy about the conference, and alarmed about US statements explicitly tying the aid to political goals.
They say that rather than shoring up one faction over another, the conference should focus on the logistics of aid and rebuilding.
Without a deal on a truce or national unity government, and with the borders still mostly closed, it remains to be seen how useful any of these promises will be.
"The issue is that aid has been politicized," says Bill Van Esveld, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. He says aid and reconstruction have to start immediately, and cannot wait for the political horse-trading in Cairo to come to an end.
"The people of Gaza can't wait for a political solution," he says. "They need aid desperately right now, and to get it Israel needs to open the borders.'
Robert Blecher, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, says the most important thing that donor countries can do is to commit to working with a Palestinian unity government when it is announced next month – whatever it looks like.
He says that the refusal of major donor countries to work with a national unity government formed in 2007, due to concerns about the role played by Hamas, "contributed to its failure."
"They should take this opportunity to signal they will be more flexible by judging the new government on the basis of its behavior, not by an ideological litmus test," he says. " Money is important, but all the money in the world won't matter if it goes to Ramallah and Ramallah cannot work in Gaza."
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.