- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Wednesday that the U.S. would give the Palestinian Authority an additional $150 million in direct aid.

“The Palestinian Authority [PA] is reversing a history of corruption and producing results that actually matter and improve the lives of Palestinians,” Mrs. Clinton said during a satelite videolink with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

“As a result, new businesses are opening, taxes are being collected, services are being delivered. Security is much improved, and the economy is growing,” she said.

The announcement comes as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, renewed Sept. 2 with the aim of achieving an agreement within a year, remain in limbo.

The Palestinians suspended their participation after the Sept. 26 expiration of Israel’s 10-month settlement moratorium in the West Bank, and U.S. efforts to coax Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into extending the freeze have failed.

Mr. Fayyad and other Palestinian leaders have said they will seek recognition of statehood from the United Nations if direct talks with Israel fail.

Mr. Fayyad thanked the U.S. for its financial support, which now totals $600 million for 2010: “There is hardly any sign of visible progress on the ground in Palestine today that does not have the caring fingerprints [of the U.S].

“Readiness for statehood is in fact the key objective,” he added, referring to his ongoing institution-building program. “We are well on track. We are determined to stay the course despite the difficulties and obstacles that we continue to have to contend with every day.”

The Western-educated Mr. Fayyad, a politically independent former PA finance minister, was appointed to his new post by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007 after the Hamas takeover of Gaza.

Though seen more as a technocrat than a politician among Palestinians, Mr. Fayyad has has received high marks in the West Bank and Gaza while earning the respect of Western officials.

“Fayyad is a decent man doing an almost-impossible job and doing it well,” said Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi, founder and president of the Israel Project, which recently organized a dinner for the Palestinian prime minister and dozens of Jewish leaders.

Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, said the U.S. — already the largest single donor to the PA — could expect a handsome return on the new investment.

“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “You can hire a lot of Palestinians to build a lot of things with $150 million, you can train a lot of security forces, you can make a lot of medium- and small-business loans.”

Mr. Ibish said that by honoring and increasing its financial commitments to the PA, the U.S. “sends a clear signal to other donors — particularly the Arab states that have been delinquent on their pledges — and also sends a message of political support for President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.”

Both men, and Mr. Fayyad in particular, have enjoyed consistently high approval ratings in recent Palestinian polls, which also show a precipitous collapse in support for Hamas in both the West Bank and Gaza.

Mrs. Clinton will meet Thursday with Mr. Netanyahu amid renewed tensions over Israeli building in the disputed eastern section of Jerusalem.

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