Donors pledge $5bn to rebuild Gaza

Cash aimed at reconstruction of Gaza following Israel’s 22-day war on the territory.

gaza conference fayyad
Fayyad, left, wants much of the money to be given to the PA, which is based in the West Bank [AFP]

European pledges

The European Commission said it will donate $554m for the reconstruction of Gaza and changes to the PA, which is chaired by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president who also leads the Fatah political group.

In depth

Analysis and features from Gaza after the war

The US and EC donations are to be channelled through the Palestinian Authority (PA) and not Hamas, Gaza’s governing party.

Saudi Arabia pledged $1bn and Qatar $250m, while $174m will come from the United Arab Emirates, although they have not yet specified who they will pay the money to, or how it will be spent.

Japan, Italy and Turkey were among other nations who made multi-million-dollar pledges to the PA.

Up to 75 countries and international organisations were asked to fund a $2.8bn reconstruction plan designed by Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister.

Fayyad wants a large part of the money to be channelled through the PA, which is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

‘Settlement expansion’

The pledges come as Israeli authorities plan for 73,000 new housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to an anti-settlement group.

Peace Now has said in a report that the next Israeli government could continue projects for settlement expansion, and the group says it had collected details of new housing projects.

“We found that 73,000 new housing units are in the plans that are already made by the Ministry of Housing – that means the government of Israel,” said Hagit Ofran, the project director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch.

“Although most of those plans are not already confirmed, the plans are there for future construction.”

The settlements are illegal under international law and the so-called “road map” setting the course for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations calls for a halt to their expansion.

International goodwill

Meanwhile, it remains unclear how the planned reconstruction of Gaza will be undertaken given that the territory is controlled by Hamas, which is listed as a “terrorist” group by Israel, the EU and the US.

Todd Baer, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza City, said that people living in the stricken territory are in desperate need of building supplies to rebuild their homes.

“How the pledges are going to reach Gaza is the big question here, if all the [donations] go to the PA in the West Bank and none to Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Clinton said conditions will be attached to the $300m the US will hand over for Gaza [AFP]

“A number of officials from the United Nations, various non-governmental organisations and the World Bank have said that the money could be funnelled through them, to get into the Gaza Strip. That would be the most likely avenue.”

Israel has said it will refuse to approve building projects that could benefit Hamas in Gaza.

Hamas took full control of Gaza in June 2007 after driving out security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president and leader of the rival Fatah group.

Hamas, for its part, has prepared its own reconstruction plan for Gaza.

“We are welcoming anyone who wants to reconstruct Gaza, but without any political terms on Hamas or on the Palestinian people,” Osama Hamdan, a Beirut-based Hamas official, told Al Jazeera.

But speaking at the donor conference, Clinton called on Hamas to abide by a series of rules.

“Hamas is a not a country; it is an entity that has to understand what the principles for any engagement are – not just with the United States,” she said.

“The Quartet – the United Nations, Russia the European Union and the United States – as well as the Arab League – are in agreement that there are certain principles that Hamas would have to adopt in order for any of us to engage with Hamas: recognise Israel, renounce violence and agree to abide by prior agreements.”

Clinton later flew to Israel to hold talks with leaders in the country’s outgoing administration and Benyamin Netanyahu, who has been tasked with forming a new Israeli government following recent elections.

Blockade ‘intolerable’

Israel’s blockade of the territory continues to prevent supplies, including construction materials, from crossing into Gaza.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) says $2.8bn is needed to rebuild Gaza

A total of $3bn has been already been pledged by countries and entities including the European Commission ($554m) Saudi Arabia ($1bn), Qatar ($250m), Algeria ($100m) and the US ($900m).

The US says its financial assistance cannot be channelled through Gaza’s Hamas-run government

Israel has barred entry into Gaza of material which it says may have a military use, such as cement and steel rods

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said border crossings into Gaza must be reopened to allow aid into the devastated territory.

“The situation at the border crossings is intolerable. Aid workers do not have access. Essential commodities cannot get in,” he told donors.

“Our first and indispensable goal is to open crossings.”

Marc Gopin, from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, told Al Jazeera: “They can’t even get in humanitarian aid at this point because the [Israeli] blockade is so severe,” he said.

Abbas said that aid would be insufficient to meet Gazans’ needs as long as there was no political settlement to the conflict.

“We appreciate your presence and the financial, economic and technical support that you are giving to the Palestinian people, but we insist on the pressing need to achieve substantial progress towards a just settlement [with the Israelis],” he said at the donor conference.

The Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip ended after Israel called a halt to the fighting on January 18. Hamas announced its own ceasefire the following day.

More than 1,300 Palestinians, including women and children, died during the war on Gaza, which Israel launched with the stated aim of preventing rocket fire from fighters based in the coastal territory.

At least 13 Israelis, three of them civilians, were also killed.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies