x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Obama pledges $400m aid for Gaza

The White House announces US$400 million in assistance to the West Bank and Gaza that will help fund infrastructure projects, improve home ownership and create jobs.

President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, on Wednesday, June 9, 2010, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington.
President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, on Wednesday, June 9, 2010, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington.

WASHINGTON // Barack Obama yesterday called the situation in Gaza "inherently unstable" and said he will work with allies in the Middle East and Europe to improve conditions for the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the impoverished coastal strip. In remarks after a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mr Obama stressed the importance of finding a "better approach" to allow more goods and services into the region.

"It seems to us that there should be ways of focusing narrowly on arms shipments, rather than focusing in a blanket way on stopping everything and then, in a piecemeal way, allowing things into Gaza," the US president said. The sit down with Mr Abbas comes more than a week after Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, which killed nine civilians and triggered international outrage. Mr Obama said he would work with other leaders to "take what has been a tragedy and turn it into an opportunity to create a situation where lives in Gaza are actually, directly improved."

The White House yesterday announced US$400 million (Dh1.47 billion) in assistance to the West Bank and Gaza that will go toward funding infrastructure projects, improving home ownership and creating jobs. More than half of the funding will go towards a home ownership programmed in the West Bank, while tens of millions will go toward building schools, repairing a hospital, and fixing water distribution and wastewater collection systems in Gaza.

While Israel says its blockade is necessary to keep weapons from reaching Hamas, critics say the policy has crushed Gaza's economy and made it impossible to rebuild its crumbling infrastructure. Mr Obama, who was criticised for not delivering a harsher rebuke of Israel after the flotilla raid, said the funding was part of an effort by the United States to "reaffirm our commitment to improving the day-to-day lives of ordinary Palestinians"

Mr Abbas hailed the announcement as "a positive signal", saying it showed that the United States "cares about the suffering of the people in Gaza". The announcement was carefully worded and timed to give credit to Mr Abbas, whose closeness to the US and willingness to negotiate with Israel have become political liabilities. The White House press office noted that the funding resulted directly from "the advocacy and guidance of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whose leadership is making a difference for the Palestinian people, in Gaza as well as the West Bank".

sstanek@thenational.ae