Afraid of alienating Hamas, Arabs will pay little to PA - Israel

Officials in Jerusalem say amounts pledged will reflect countries' commitment to peace process.

Arab states participating in Monday's donor conference in Paris are likely to pledge generously to the Palestinian Authority, but not pay much of their pledges, partly so as not to antagonize Hamas, Israeli diplomatic officials said Sunday. According to the officials, this was likely to be especially true of Egypt, which has of late sought to get closer to Hamas and would like to see Hamas incorporated back into Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's government. Israeli officials said that Jerusalem would be watching the sums pledged to the PA from the Arab world carefully and that the amount the individual countries actually paid would be a good indication of their real support for the Annapolis process. Among the Arab countries that will be represented in Paris at the foreign ministerial level are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt. Iraq, Syria and Yemen are sending ambassadors to the conference, meaning that they won't be pledging any money. Some 90 countries and global institutions like the World Bank are taking part in the conference. European officials have said that the goal was to raise some $5.6 billion. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni arrived in Paris Sunday morning to participate in the conference, and met soon thereafter with Abbas. She told reporters after the hour-long meeting that the Paris conference was a continuation of the Annapolis process, and that what was needed now was to lay the dual foundations of a Palestinian state and security for Israel. "The formula that needs to guide us is on the one hand that a Palestinian economy and the road to a Palestinian state is in Israel's interest, just as Israeli security needs to be a Palestinian interest," she said. Livni said her expectations from the international community were that it understand that both sides of this equation were necessary - an improved economy and freedom of movement for the Palestinians, and security for Israel. She also said that during the negotiations there would be events on the ground that would need to be dealt with, some of which would make it difficult for Israel, and others that would complicate matters for the Palestinians. "We will need to focus on the goal," she said, in an apparent reference to the difficulties encountered during the opening of the bilateral talks last Wednesday, when the hour-long talks were dominated by Palestinian protests against Israeli building in Har Homa and military actions in Gaza. In recent days, Livni and Foreign Ministry officials have been lobbying members of the Quartet - the US, EU, Russia and UN - to make sure that inordinate attention will not be given to Har Homa in a statement that is expected to be released after the Quartet meets on Monday. Israeli officials said that Israel wanted to make sure that the deteriorating situation in Sderot and the western Negev got as much "play" in the Quartet statement as Har Homa. The situation on the ground and the expectations of the Paris meeting were the focus of Livni's discussion with Abbas, during which it was agreed that another meeting of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating steering committee will be held next week. Livni took part in a dinner Sunday night hosted by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, which also included Abbas, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Quartet envoy (and the driving force behind the Paris conference) Tony Blair, and the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Livni is scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the donors conference opens on Monday. She is also expected to meet several of her Arab counterparts, although officials in her office would not name any names. Efforts to set up bilateral meetings for Livni with Arab foreign ministers last month in Annapolis failed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at Sunday's cabinet meeting that while the conference would deal with strengthening the Palestinian Authority, the main issue from Israel's point-of-view "is the PA's ability to properly deal with the security issue, defeat the terrorist organizations and assure that there will be no terrorism directed at Israel." Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said in an interview with AP that the PA needed a quick injection of cash to get through the next few months. Fayad said in Paris he hoped the Arab states would pitch in, adding that Europe could not be expected to go much beyond the already considerable amount of aid it had been providing to the Palestinians. The EU gave the PA some $1.4 billion in 2007. "This is a point in time where we need cash assistance, and we need it in a hurry," Fayad said. "As you know, the EU has done quite a bit over the course of this year, raising the level of its cash assistance." "It is difficult for us to see more assistance coming from the EU in the course of the next year," Fayad said. "Therefore, it is important for us to be able to mobilize Arab assistance that has been committed or pledged."