Israel wants $2.2b from U.S. for Gaza pullout
Al Jazeera | July 11, 2005
A crane lifts a mobile home at the Nitzanim construction site in southern Israel
Israel will request 2.2 billion dollars from the United States to help finance its planned pullout from the Gaza Strip, Israeli sources said on Monday.
Israel has originally requested 500 million dollars in pullout aid from Washington, but in preliminary discussions, U.S. officials said they were ready to give Israel “generous aid,” Israel radio said.
"This is our biggest aid request in my memory -- which is hardly surprising given the unprecedented scale of the Disengagement Plan," a top Israeli official said on condition of anonymity.
The money will be spent on the process of relocating army bases to Israel and tightening security on the Egyptian-Israeli border after Israel withdraws from all 21 settlements in Gaza as well as four other enclaves in the northern West Bank.
The rest of the money will be spent on development projects in the Galilee and Negev regions, where many of Gaza settlers are likely to be relocated.
Israel's Haaretz daily reported that the U.S. aid will be officially requested by senior aides to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a meeting with U.S. National Security Council official Elliot Abrams, scheduled for Monday evening.
The Congress must approve the special aid package, expected to be made up of grant-in-aid money and loan guarantees, the radio said.
The U.S. annual aid to Israel amounts to around three billion dollars, including two billion dollars in military outlay.
The cost of the disengagement plan, due to start in mid-August, is estimated at 8 billion shekels ($1.74 billion). The Israeli government has allocated costs as an addition to the state budget and will spread them over three years to keep the deficit from rising significantly.
Meanwhile, another Israeli delegation, headed by Reserve General Herzl Bodinger, special envoy for Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, are expected this week to seal an agreement with the Pentagon on the supervision of weapons deals.
The deal is aimed at settling a row between the two countries after Israel sold drones to China despite Washington's opposition.