Will Gaza aid become politicized?

The international community is seeking to aide Gaza citizens suffering from the aftermath of Israel’s offensive, but the issue is whether or not the money will reach them through Mahmoud Abbas’s government.

Over 70 nations are attending the international donors’ meeting on rebuilding Gaza in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, has prepared a 53-page reconstruction plan for the donors. He intends to direct most of the raised money to his West Bank-based government, which bypasses Hamas.

Other aid would go directly to the bank accounts of Gazans.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked international donors to adopt this reconstruction plan, describing it as a “national comprehensive development plan” and promised the reconstruction would be based on “transparency and justice.”

Hamas, whose representatives have not been invited to the meeting, has called for the aid being sent to Gaza to not be politicized.

The participants should “search for speedy and effective mechanisms to transfer funds to the Palestinian people directly, without getting caught up in the internal Palestinian political differences,” Associated Press cites Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum as saying. “Our people's blood cannot be bargained for reconstruction or politicized aid,” he added.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was attending the gathering, said “if Hamas wants to be respected, it must have a respectable position.”

“A respectable position is to understand that there is no other solution apart from a political solution with Israel,” he added.

A UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are also among the participants.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that rebuilding Gaza following Israel's three-week offensive in January will depend on several factors, including a long-term truce and the opening up of the area's closed border crossings.

The EU executive body, the European Commission, is going to allocate $US 554 million to the Palestinians in 2009.

The US is expected to pledge $US 900 million to help rebuild Gaza. Hillary Clinton has already had talks with the Egyptian President and Prime Minister.

The Persian Gulf states earlier pledged about $US 1.64 billion in aid for Gaza during a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

As for Russia, it is going to supply the Palestinian National Autonomy with 50 armored personnel carriers (APCs) and two civil helicopters, as well as food and medicine, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced.

The Palestinians are seeking $US 2.8 billion to rebuild the region where thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged during the Israeli offensive.