U.S. and Israeli officials meet over disengagement funds
U.S. agrees to extend financial guarantee of $3 billion until 2008; officials yet to discuss pullout.
Israel has asked for indirect financial aid ahead of the disengagement, and the Bush administration has agreed to front Jerusalem a 3 billion-dollar financial guarantee until 2008, Israel Radio said Wednesday.
Israeli delegates met with the U.S. officials in Washington predawn on Wednesday to begin talks on financial aid for development in the Negev and the Galilee.
Jerusalem is also asking for assistance in funding the relocation of Israel Defense Forces bases after this summer's planned disengagement from Gaza and some settlements in the northern West Bank.
Finance Ministry Director-General Dr. Yossi Bachar met with U.S. national security officials and they discussed forming a joint U.S.-Israeli committee to address the matter.
The United States has also agreed to spread Israel's financial guarantees over the next three years, two years later than was initially scheduled.
Decision on Nitzanim relocation site immimentAt Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's order, staff work is already underway on appropriating the Nitzanim area for relocation of settlers evacuated from Gaza, and a final decision on use of the site will be made in a few days, the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office said Wednesday.
A decision as to the date for the beginning of the evacuations is also pending. On Tuesday, a cabinet subcommittee for implementation of the disengagement deferred a decision on proposals to delay the onset of the evacuations.
Until this week, the evacuations were to have begun on July 25. But a recommendation by Disengagement Administration chief Yonaton Bassi would put off the launch of the disengagement until August 15, after the traditional three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the ancient Jewish Temples.
The prime minister has voiced indirect endorsement of the August 15 date.
The cabinet panel is seen likely to reject a second proposal by Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, which would postpone the evacuations until October 26, after the conclusion of the High Holy Days.
Bush has promised aid for Negev, GalileeIn their meeting at President George W. Bush's ranch in Texas earlier this month, the American leader told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the U.S. would help Israeli efforts for development in the Negev in the south and Galilee in the north.
Settlers have discussed relocating en masse to the regions after they are evacuated from the territories under the premier's disengagement plan.
Israel has so far been wary of requests for American financial assistance ahead of the withdrawal, and has said it will not ask directly for aid in relocating the settlers.