Some Palestinian intellectuals, academics and political leaders have gone so far as to dismiss the event as "a mere waste of time" and "futile symptomatic treatment" of the Palestinian question.

The one-day gathering, organised by British Prime Minister Tony Blain and attended by representatives from the US, EU and some Arab countries as well as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was devoted to expediting security, political and economic reforms in the Palestinian Authority.

Israel didn't attend the conference, prompting some critics to question the wisdom of "de-contextualizing" Palestinian Authority (PA) commitments and obligations from the overall context of the Israeli occupation and control of every aspect of Palestinians' life.

Generous support

On the positive side, delegates promised generous financial support for the PA, to the tune of $1.2 billion.

The bulk of the money will be invested in rebuilding Palestinian infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, ravaged by more than four years of sustained Israeli attacks.

Bulk of the pledged money will
go to rebuilding infrastructure

According to Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayadh, the US and EU pledged $391 million and 250 million euros respectively while Japan pledged $ 90 million.

In an interview with Wednesday's edition of the Palestinian daily al-Ayyam, Fayadh said the PA was "completely satisfied with the outcome of the conference".

He added: "I believe we went to London to acquire financial aid first and foremost, and this is what we received, so I think it is a complete success."

Contrasting views

Fayadh suggested that conference's failure to underscore the necessary linkage between the Israeli occupation and Palestinian reforms in no way detracted from its importance.

"We made it clear to everyone that the lifting of Israel's economic siege was crucial for our economic revival, and I think there is now a better understanding of the political situation and our economic needs," he said.

PA Finance Minister Fayadh(R)
is upbeat about the aid pledges

Fayadh's upbeat assessment is strongly contested by by Ali al-Jirjawi, professor of political science at the Bir Zait University and former head of the Palestinian Election Commission.

He told Aljazeera.net that the London meeting was just "another deception to be added to all the previous lies".

Al-Jirjawi said: "I can't understand how any political, economic or even security reforms can be introduced, let alone implemented, in the shadow of Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

"This meeting sought to treat the 'effects' while leaving the 'causes' intact. In other words, it is another exercise in deception."

Occupation ignored

Al-Jirjawi said the implementation of the necessary reforms depended first and foremost on cessation of the Israeli occupation.

"You noticed that Blair didn't mention the word occupation even once as if the occupation was the outcome, not the cause, of the problems facing the Palestinian people," he said.

PA officials say Israel will have to
hand over 100% of the territories

Ghazi Hamad, editor in chief of the Islamic weekly, al-Risala, criticised the Palestinian leadership for "coming to terms with these symptomatic treatments of the Palestinian cause".

He said: "I think the PA is making the same mistake it had made during the Oslo years, namely the dubious belief that a state can be built without ending the occupation first. This is simply wrong. We saw how Israeli tanks and warplanes destroyed the infrastructure the PA built during the 1990s, from the Gaza airport to the Palestinian radio station in Ramallah.

"If they choose to make the same mistake again, then they must be plain stupid."

Financial treatment

Hamad, who last year escaped an Israeli assassination attempt in Gaza because the Israelis didn't like what he was writing, described the London conference as "a psychological and financial treatment of the Palestinian problem".

As of now, West Bank and Gaza
has not seen any Israeli pullout

He added: "But nice words and pleasantries, even when coupled with hundreds of millions of dollars, won't stop the unmitigated theft of Palestinian land by Israel as well as the mutilation of the very territory Blair and Bush say will be home for a Palestinian state."

Senior Palestinian Authority official Nabil Shaath, who didn't take part in the London conference, told Aljazeera.net he understands "our people's frustrations in this regard".

However, nobody claimed that the London conference was a political gathering devoted to ending the Israeli occupation and discussing the so-called final status issues such as Jerusalem, the refugees and the borders, he said.

No deviation

"The raison d'tre of the conference was to help the Palestinian Authority prepare for the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state," Shaath said.

"I can't understand how any political, economic or even security reforms can be introduced ... in the shadow of Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers"

Ali Jirbawi,
Political Science Professor,
Bir Zait University

He strongly denied that the road map plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians was a deviation from UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the formula of land for peace upon which the Madrid conference on 1991.

"This is not true. The road map stipulates that the process would lead to the termination of the Israeli occupation that began in 1967," he said.

Shaath said the PA as well as the Palestinian people will never accept the "demographic realities" Israel has created since 1967, a reference to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

"Israel will have to leave 100% of the occupied territories, or there will be no peace."