U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently participated in a donors conference for Gaza recovery in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. At the conference, the United States announced its intent to provide approximately $900 million in assistance in 2009 to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas.
The assistance will be used to address critical humanitarian, budgetary, security, and infrastructure needs. Secretary Clinton stressed that the U.S. has worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure that U.S. funding is only used where, and for whom it is intended, and does not end up in the wrong hands.
"Our response to today's crisis in Gaza," said Secretary Clinton, "cannot be separated from our broader efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace. By providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza, we also aim to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realized." Such a state must be at peace with Israel and its Arab neighbors and be accountable to its people.
Israel needs to demonstrate to the Palestinians that there are benefits to negotiating if the goal is to live in peace in an economically viable state. For the Arab states, it means signaling through words and deeds that the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative can begin to govern attitudes toward Israel now. The initiative calls for among other things, a full normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel.
The Palestinians, said Secretary Clinton, "need to break the cycle of rejection and resistance, to cut the strings pulled by those who exploit the suffering of innocent people." Through his commitment to negotiations, Palestinian President Abbas is offering the Palestinian people the option of a peaceful, independent, and more prosperous future, not the violence of Hamas extremists whose tactics, including rocket attacks that continue to this day, only will lead to more hardship and suffering. "These attacks," said Secretary Clinton, "must stop."
It is critical that Palestinian reconciliation efforts result in a Palestinian Authority that abides by the PLO commitments to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist. "Only a Palestinian Authority that adheres to these principles," said Secretary Clinton, "can fulfill the aspirations of the Palestinian people to be free, independent, prosperous and peaceful, flourishing in a viable state of their own."