The American government is planning to transfer $410 million to the Palestinian Authority in an effort to strengthen its president, Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, Ynet reported Wednesday.
The Bush administration has come to Abbas' aid in the struggle against Hamas for public support, and is seeking to prove to the Palestinian people that choosing the path of peace pays off.
The Palestinians received smaller sums in recent years from the US, and these were transferred mainly to specific projects, not directly to the Palestinian Authority treasury, as the Europeans tended to do.
Sources in the US government stress that the aid marks an unprecedented effort aimed at saving the PA led by Abbas. The US is thereby swerving from its traditional handovers and is handing over a sum approaching half a billion dollars.
Half of the American aid will be directed at infrastructures, $35 million will be transferred to the Food and Employment Bureau of the United Nations Refugees Works Agency (UNRWA). The remainder of the money will be combined with the PA's continuous budget.
Finance minister in Washington
A special aid clause has been added due to the request for an additional $46 million for the budget, after the US Congress already approved an addition of $150 million to fund the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other security plans.
This is the largest aid program ever given to the Palestinians by the US. In Washington, sources say the aid underlines the high importance attached by the Bush administration to the need to support Abbas and Fayyad and their efforts to reach tangible goals on the ground for the Palestinian public.
Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, who is on an official visit in Washington, said during a meeting in the American capital that the international community must aid the Palestinian economic recovery.
Bar-On met Tuesday with the heads of foreign affairs and budgets committees in the House of Representatives, and with the chairman of Homeland Security in the Senate, Senator Joe Lieberman.
The meetings focused on US security aid to Israel, the peace process, and economic relations between Israel and the Palestinians.