Fayyad Seeking U.S. Help in Collecting Gaza Funds

According to PA's prime minister, there is an urgent need for $300,000,000 to continue the rehabilitation of the Strip.

The Palestinian Authority has asked U.S. special Middle East envoy George Mitchell to use America's leverage with the Arab states to convince them to make good on their financial commitments to the PA, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for rebuilding the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was especially critical of the Saudi government, which pledged the largest amount at the Sharm el-Sheikh donor states' conference earlier this year.

Fayyad, who has said that he is resigning from his post, reported that he reached an agreement with several Gaza banks, according to which the funds will be sent to them directly, bypassing the Hamas government. Businesses and home owners who sustained damage in Operation Cast Lead would then be able to claim the money directly from the banks. According to Fayyad, there is an urgent need for $300,000,000 to continue the rehabilitation of the Strip.

The prime minister also complained that Israel and Egypt are not allowing building materials into Gaza.

The United States has also not yet transfered the $900,000,000 pledged by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Two-thirds of this donation are aimed at West Bank development, and the remainder for reconstruction of Gaza.

The White House is still negotiating about the sum with Congress. Clinton has told European colleagues that Fayyad's continued role as prime minister is a precondition for American aid to the Palestinians.

In light of the stalemate in the Palestinian unity-government negotiations, officials in the PA said they believe Fayyad will soon withdraw his resignation and concede to Mahmoud Abbas' request to form a new government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Mitchell that he is determined to assist Fayyad in building industrial and other structures in the West Bank. He related that he was also putting a special team in place in his office to streamline procedures for dealing with Palestinian economic initiatives.

Nearly 80 states took part in the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, which concluded with pledges amounting to $4.4 billion over two years, to cope with the damages of the army operation.

The Olmert government demanded at the time that an international supervisory mechanism be established that will ensure the money doesn't reach Hamas.