PARIS – Countries and international organizations pledged $7.4 billion in assistance to the impoverished Palestinian Authority at a conference in Paris on Monday, saying that an infusion of cash would help the peace process begun by the United States last month in Annapolis, Md.
The giving topped the preconference goal of $5.6 billion for the next three years. But some delegates said that pumping money into the West Bank and Gaza Strip would not lead to long-term economic growth or political moderation as long as Israel continued expanding Jewish settlements and imposing a regime of checkpoints and closures that was strangling the Palestinian economy.
Israeli Foreign Minster Tzipi Livni said it was a two-way street.
“We do not want the image of Israel in the Palestinian mind to be a soldier at the checkpoint. But we know making every effort to improve quality of life also means making every effort to end the threat to life posed by terror and violence,” she said. “Economic advancement and personal security must be advanced together.”
Gloomy economic reports and the back-and-forth over long-standing disputes underscored the challenges Israelis, Palestinians and their intermediaries face in meeting the key goal of Annapolis: forging an independent Palestinian state and a lasting peace agreement by the end of 2008.
“This is the most promising opportunity to seek peace that we have had in nearly seven years, and we need to seize it,” said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in announcing $555 million in U.S. assistance. Much of the U.S. contribution had been previously announced by the White House and must still be approved by Congress.
“For these efforts to succeed, the continued and unwavering support of the international community is absolutely vital,” she said. “This conference is literally the (Palestinian) government’s last hope to avoid bankruptcy.”
“Economic development is the best guarantee of lasting peace and long-term security for Israel,” said French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the conference host. He pledged $300 million to the Palestinians over the next three years and called on Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank, freeze settlement expansion, and reopen checkpoints and barriers “to allow the economy there to breathe.”
In seeking $5.6 billion in assistance for 2008-2010, the Palestinians said about 70 percent of the funds would be for budgetary shortfalls and the rest for development assistance.