Monday, December 17, 2007
Maybe the international pledges of $7.4 billion over the next three years, announced today at an conference of nearly 90 nations in Paris, will enable the Palestinian Authority to tone down its confrontational rhetoric and concentrate on neighborly relations with Israel. The PA needs the cash to pay its rising deficit and stave off bankruptcy and irrelevancy, since it is under threat from Israel's construction of a wall around its territory and from extremists among its own people who seized control of Gaza. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice called the pledges "absolutely vital" for the survival of the PA and for Middle East peace efforts renewed at last month's U.S.-sponsored conference in Annapolis, Md. Conference participants called on Israel to relax travel restrictions in the West Bank for the sake of the Palestinian economy, and Israel sounded amenable. Perhaps as a reminder of the pitfalls ahead, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza called the donor conference "a declaration of war" against his movement, which refuses to renounce violence or recognize the existence of Israel.