State Department: No US Aid to Help Rebuild Gaza

None of the $900 million the Obama administration has pledged in aid for the Palestinian Territories will go to rebuild Gaza, the Los Angeles Times quotes a State Department spokesperson.

The White House wants to prevent aid from falling into the hands of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, according to the Times. Israel is also blocking many rebuilding materials from entering Gaza.

These restrictions make it difficult to get aid into Gaza and thus put prospects of economic recovery and reconstruction on hold, Human Rights Watch argued.

"All the pledges of aid this conference is expected to produce will be worth next to nothing if the donors do not demand that Israel open the borders to commercial goods as well as humanitarian essentials," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

Most of the $900 million pledged by the Obama administration is expected to be spent supporting the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, mostly to offset a budget shortfall and fund economic, security and other projects. About $300 million is expected to be spent on humanitarian aid to Gaza. Wood said this money would be funneled through USAID and U.N. agencies.

George Laudato, USAID's acting assistant director for the Middle East, is currently traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He said on Friday that USAID would use the money to fund programs similar to one that already exist under the agency's authority in Gaza.

"We expect also that any activities that flow from that pledge will look very similar to the types of activities that we are currently working on in Gaza," Laudato said. "Since late December … we've committed over $10 million to the relief effort in Gaza, have moved a significant amount of that assistance into Gaza, and we operate through eight major NGOs that have operational entities on the ground in Gaza and allow them to reach out and move assistance directly to the people in the towns and villages of Gaza."

World leaders are meeting in in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, this week to discuss the situation in the Palestinian Territories. The summit comes as the Obama administration is attempting to craft a foreign policy that better integrates defense, diplomacy and development.

Right now, the State Department is engaged in a complicated balancing act between these three goals. State Department officials have urged Israel to help improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. But Israel views much of the assistance given to Gaza as a threat to its national security, as officials there fear that the aid is being used by Hamas to improve its military capabilities.

Clinton has to balance these considerations with those of the development community, including some aid workers who have criticized the United States for not having lived up to its commitments in the region.

About the author

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    David Francis

    David is a Washington-based journalist and former Devex staffer who spearheaded Devex's "Obama's Foreign Aid Reform" blog. He has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, SportsIllustrated.com, San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Policy magazine, and the Washington Monthly. David holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Georgetown University.