US drive nets dollars 2bn for aid to Palestine: Donors at conference pledge cash to back peace deal for next five years

THE US-led drive to underpin last month's historic Israeli-Palestinian agreement with hard cash gathered pace yesterday, as a conference of aid donors pledged dollars 2bn ( pounds 1.3bn) to the Palestinians over the next five years - proof, in the words of the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, that the international community 'will not let peace fail' in the Middle East.

Speaking after the meeting of representatives of 43 countries assembled in Washington, Mr Christopher claimed it had been 'a striking success', testament to the 'new political landscape' which had emerged in the region. The Treasury Secretary, Lloyd Bentsen, said pledges for the first year alone totalled dollars 600m, and predicted the ultimate five-year sum would come close to dollars 2.4bn, which the World Bank reckons is the minimum needed by the West Bank and Gaza Strip up to 1998.

As if to underline the sudden metamorphosis of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) from a pariah to a respectable international organisation, Mr Arafat got his invitation last night from the British government to visit John Major and Douglas Hurd in London. And as proceedings unfolded at the State Department, a scarcely less important signal was coming from the White House, where President Bill Clinton hosted talks between Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan and Israel's Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, the highest-level public meeting of officials from the two countries.

Building on the 'agenda' for bilateral discussions agreed after last month's peace accord, Israel and Jordan are to set up a joint economic committee, while the United States will join them in a tripartite working group to speed the peace process. Key topics will be environmental issues, notably water supplies and joint action to halt desertification of the region.

In the aid package for the Palestinians, the largest single contribution comes from the US with dollars 500m, double its initial promise of dollars 250m. The European Community is pledging dollars 600m while Japan has made a promise of dollars 200m in two years. Canada, the Nordic nations and other industrialised countries have also pledged substantial sums.

Israel itself will commit dollars 25m in grants and dollars 50m in concessionary credits, while after some hesitation Saudi Arabia is chipping in dollars 100m - signalling an end to the aid cut- off imposed by King Fahd after the PLO supported Saddam Hussein in the Gulf war. US officials said that some of the money was ready to spend at once, on homes, schools, and hospitals in Gaza and Jericho, where the autonomy agreement is first to take effect.

But the position of Kuwait, deeply resentful and suspicious after the PLO's pro-Iraq stance and facing a post-Gulf war financial crunch of its own, was still unclear. In separate evidence of how old enmities die hard, the US failed this week to persuade moderate Arab states to drop their economic boycott of Israel.

Neither did Mr Christopher minimise the obstacles ahead. The 'hard work' of reconcilation and rebuilding in Gaza and the West Bank had only begun. 'We must help them quickly,' he said, reflecting widespread fears that without swift action, hope in the occupied territories could quickly turn to disillusion. 'We must demonstrate the tangible benefits of peace, if the advocates of peace are to be strengthened, and the enemies of peace are to be isolated and discredited,' he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, goes back to his family's Sicilian roots in the first 'Godfather' film
Kim Kardashian speaks on the Today show about her step-father's transition
Arts and Entertainment
Kermit and his doppleganger Hyalinobatrachium dianae
Wenger and Mourinho square-up to each other earlier this season
All the action from today's Premier League, including Everton vs Man Utd and Chelsea vs Arsenal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions