U.S. plans “substantial” pledge at Gaza meeting

U.S. plans “substantial” pledge at Gaza meeting

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to offer more than $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after Israel’s invasion and to strengthen the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The money, which needs U.S. congressional approval, will be distributed through U.N. and other bodies and not via the militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, said one official.

“This money is for Gaza and to help strengthen the Palestinian Authority. It is not going to go to Hamas,” said the official, who asked not to be named as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned to announce the funding at a donors’ conference in Egypt next week.

Neither the United States nor Israel have direct contact with the Islamist Hamas movement which runs Gaza and remains formally committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.

The official said the pledge was a mix of money already earmarked for the Palestinians and some new funding.

“The package is still shaping up,” he said, when asked for specifics over how the money would be spent and a breakdown of old and new funding.

In December, the former Bush administration said it would give $85 million to the U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The March 2 donors’ conference in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort aims to raise humanitarian and rebuilding funds for Gaza after Israel’s invasion last December to suppress rocket fire against its cities.

Preliminary estimates put damage from the offensive, in which 1,300 Palestinians died, at nearly $2 billion.

Clinton’s bid to get “substantial” funds could face an uphill battle in Congress because Hamas continues to rule Gaza and the U.S. focus is on its own souring economy.

BOOST FOR ABBAS

Part of the goal of the new funding is to boost the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, which controls the occupied West Bank.

The United States wants Abbas’s PA to play a central role in the reconstruction effort in Gaza, hoping this will increase its influence in the Hamas stronghold. Washington is also putting pressure on other donors to bolster Abbas.

“We call on donor countries to focus their pledges to meet the Palestinian Authority’s priorities, including budget support, and on projects that can be funded through the Palestinian Authority and other existing, trusted mechanisms,” said a State Department official.

The quartet of Middle East mediators — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Egyptian conference where they will work on strategy on Gaza, U.S. officials said.

After attending the conference in Egypt, Clinton is expected to go to Israel and the West Bank — a public demonstration of Obama’s promise to make Arab-Israeli peacemaking a foreign policy priority.

Clinton’s special envoy to the region, George Mitchell, will be there this week trying to revive stalled Palestinian statehood talks complicated both by Hamas and political uncertainty in Israel after last week’s election.

(Editing by Vicki Allen and Alan Elsner)

California: A Casualty of the Left

California: A Casualty of the Left

By Dennis Prager
FrontPageMagazine.com | 2/24/2009

Virtually throughout its history, and certainly in the 20th century, California has been known as the place to go for dynamism and growth. It did not become the richest, most populous, and most productive state solely because of its weather and natural resources.

So it takes a lot to turn California around from growth to contraction, from people moving into the state to a net exodus from the state, from business moving into California to businesses leaving California.

It takes some doing.

And the Left has done it.

California’s Democratic legislature has been more or less able to do whatever it wants with California. The Wall Street Journal has described the result:

“The Golden State — which a decade ago was the booming technology capital of the world — has been done in by two decades of chronic overspending, overregulating and a hyperprogressive tax code.…”

One might argue that’s this is a politically biased assessment. So here are some facts, not assessments:

  • California’s state expenditures grew from $104 billion in 2003 to $145 billion in 2008.
  • California has the worst credit rating in the nation.
  • California has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the nation, 9.3 percent — higher even than the car manufacturing state of Michigan.
  • California has the second highest home foreclosure rate.
  • California’s tax-paying middle class is leaving the state. California’s net loss last year in state-to-state migration exceeded every other state’s. New York, another Left-run state, was second.
  • Since 2000, California’s job growth rate — which in the late 1970s was many times higher than the national average — has lagged behind the national average by almost 20 percent.
  • California has lost 25 percent of its industrial work force since 2001.

Joel Kotkin, one of the leading observers of urban America, the presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, recently wrote an essay on California, “Sundown for California.” He begins with these words:

“Twenty-five years ago, along with another young journalist, I co-authored a book called “California, Inc.” about our adopted home state. The book described ‘California’s rise to economic, political, and cultural ascendancy’…But today our Golden State appears headed, if not for imminent disaster, then toward an unanticipated, maddening, and largely unnecessary mediocrity.”

That is what left-wing policies have done to California. In Kotkin’s words, “the state legislature decided to spend its money on public employees and impose ever more regulatory burdens on business.”

Last week, Intel, the world’s largest maker of computer chips, announced that it would invest $7 billion to expand its facilities. Where? In Arizona, Oregon, and New Mexico. But not in California, the state in which Intel is headquartered.

The Left is bringing the greatest state to its knees.

What generations created, the Left destroys. There are few productive and noble institutions in America that the Left has not hurt or attempted to hurt. But while the Left destroys a great deal, it constructs almost nothing (outside of government agencies, laws, and lawsuits).

Take the Boy Scouts. For generations, the Boy Scouts, founded and preserved by Americans of all political as well as ethnic backgrounds, has helped millions of American boys become good, productive men. The Left throughout America — its politicians, its media, its stars, its academics — have ganged up to deprive the Boy Scouts of oxygen. Everywhere possible, the Boy Scouts are vilified and deprived of places to meet.

But while the Left works to destroy the Boy Scouts — unless the Boy Scouts adopt the Left’s views on openly gay scouts and scout leaders — the Left has created nothing comparable to the Boy Scouts. The Left tries to destroy one of the greatest institutions ever made for boys, but it has built nothing for boys. There is no ACLU version of the Boy Scouts; there is only the ACLU versus the Boy Scouts.

The same holds true for the greatest character-building institution in American life: Judeo-Christian religions. Once again, the Left knows how to destroy. Everywhere possible the Left works to inhibit religious institutions and values — from substituting “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” to removing the tiny cross from the Los Angeles County Seal to arguing that religious people must not bring their values into the political arena.

And, then there is education. Until the Left took over American public education in the second half of the 20th century, it was generally excellent — look at the high level of eighth-grade exams from early in the 20th century and you will weep. The more money the Left has gotten for education — America now spends more per student than any country in the world — the worse the academic results. And the Left has removed God and dress codes from schools — with socially disastrous results.

Of course, it is not entirely accurate to say that the Left builds nothing. It has built vast government bureaucracies, MTV, and post-1960s Hollywood, for example. But these are, to say the least, not positive achievements.

In his column this week, Thomas Friedman describes General Motors Corp., as “a giant wealth-destruction machine.” That perfectly describes the Left many times over. It is both a wealth-destruction machine and an ennobling-institution destruction machine.


Dennis Prager hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show based in Los Angeles. He is the author of four books, most recently “Happiness is a Serious Problem” (HarperCollins). His website is www.dennisprager.com. To find out more about Dennis Prager, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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