Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Clinton hints at Syria deal as part of Middle East peace push.

Hillary Clinton attended the donors' conference at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the Palestinian Authority were seeking funds to rebuild after the recent Israeli assault on Gaza.

Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said donors had pledged $4.48bn (£3.2bn) in funding to be spent in the next two years. It was "beyond our expectations", he said. Other previous but undelivered pledges were recommitted, bringing the total promised to $5.2bn - nearly double what the Palestinians had sought.
All of this is fantastic news, but it will be meaningless if the Israelis continue to keep the crossings closed; as the concrete, glass and other items needed to rebuild Gaza have to enter via the crossings which Israel are refusing to open fully.

This is all a further indication of how disastrous Israel's assault on Gaza may very well turn out, both in terms of PR and in relation to her hope to bring about the collapse of Hamas within the Strip.

Clinton said the US would pledge $900m to the Palestinians, subject to approval by Congress, but warned of tight supervision of how the money would be spent. Although she did not mention Hamas she spoke forcefully against extremism and condemned the continuing firing of rockets into southern Israel. "We have worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure our funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands," she said. "It is time to break the cycle of rejection and resistance, to cut the strings pulled by those who exploit the suffering of innocent people."

Even Tony Blair is now calling for Israel to end her siege of the Gaza Strip, a further indication that she overplayed her hand recently. And Blair is going as far as to warn that the hopes of a two state solution might very well be coming to an end.

All of this will put further pressure on the Israelis to end the siege of Gaza, a siege which the Israelis appear to have no intention of ending. However, Hillary has hinted that, now that Obama is in power, the rulebook might be changing:

Clinton promised to "vigorously" pursue a two-state peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and her mention of peace on other fronts suggested the Obama administration may also push for a deal between Israel and Syria.

Later she shook hands and spoke briefly with the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem - an unscheduled meeting that perhaps suggested warmer relations were coming. Washington recalled its ambassador to Damascus three years ago.

It's heartwarming to realise that Obama appreciates that any peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians is worthless unless Israel is also recognised by Syria, Lebanon and her other neighbours.

After the stupid policy of the last eight years, such a sensible approach leaves one feeling as if an adult had finally been allowed into the White House.

But no peace deal will ever be remotely possible as long as the Israelis continue their inhumane policy of starving the people of Gaza.

The sheer amount of money pledged shows how much people sympathise with the Gazans and their plight, but that money will be meaningless unless Hillary and others force the Israelis to reverse their stance and open the crossings.

However, the very fact that it has been pledged at all shows how much Israel has lost the PR war regarding the Gaza Strip.

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