Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Clinton Visits Israel

Secretary Of State Talks About Gaza Aid, Envoys To Syria

Yesterday, Hillary Rodham Clinton spent a day in Israel for the first time in her role as the Secretary of State.

The first matter of business that Mrs. Clinton addressed upon her Jerusalem arrival was Gaza.

The report that she gave to Israel from Monday’s conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt - where 81 kings, presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and representatives of aid organizations pledged $5 billion to aid Gaza - topped her agenda. The Israeli government had requested an invitation to the conference; however, organizers were adamant in their response to Jerusalem: “You are not invited.”

Mrs. Clinton opened her remarks in Israel by saying the U.S. would transfer $900 million to the Palestinians: $300 million for rebuilding Gaza and $600 million to be deposited with Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for developing economic projects in the West Bank.

Throughout her one-day visit to Israel, Mrs. Clinton addressed the contentious issue of how the American government and the other 80 donor nations could transfer funds to Gaza without the funds going through Hamas, which maintains a tight totalitarian grip on Gaza.

However, Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman brushed off the query posed by The Bulletin as to how she could prevent American government funds from finding their way into Hamas’ hands in Gaza, because Mr. Fayyad acts in accordance with the Mecca Accord of March 2007. The Mecca Accord, agreed to in Saudi Arabia by the representatives of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA), obligates the PA to pay Hamas salaries in Gaza, including for armed Hamas military units that continue to fire rockets into Israeli communities throughout the Western Negev region.

Hamas has fired 120 times into Israel from Gaza since the Israeli government declared a self-imposed cease-fire on Jan. 18, after 22 days of an Israeli military incursion into Gaza, which Israel launched with the aim of stopping Hamas from firing into Israel.

With $5 billion of pledges in hand, even while Hamas continues attacks on Israel, the Israeli intelligence community believes Hamas will be the main beneficiary of the Sharm el-Sheikh conference.

An Israeli intelligence officials said, “Only Hamas will benefit from Gaza’s rebuilding - and not the people of Gaza. Hamas can further consolidate and strengthen its rule and impose Islamic hegemony on Gaza.”

Mrs. Clinton also announced she plans to dispatch two emissaries to Syria: Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, a former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon and now acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and Dan Shapiro, head of the Middle East desk of the White House’s National Security Council.

What no one reported, however, is Mr. Shapiro is far from popular in Syria because he was one of the key congressional staffers who authored the bipartisan-backed Syria Accountability Act, which was signed into law in May 2004.

The act’s purpose was to force the American government to act against Syrian support for terrorism, to end Syria’s presence in Lebanon, to top Syria’s development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to stem Syrian shipments of military items to anti-U.S. forces in Iraq. By dispatching one of the key players of the Syria Accountability Act to Damascus, Mrs. Clinton conveyed a double message from Jerusalem to Syria: The United States will launch a dialogue with Syria, yet only in the context of the Syria Accountability Act.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

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