Olmert won’t raise Galilee, Negev aid with Bush

“Why deal with trivia, when an unprecedented Israeli request for aid to finance the convergence plan is in the offing?”

Contrary to the hopes of certain Israeli sources, diplomatic circles in Washington believe that the issue of special US aid for the development of the Galilee and Negev regions will almost certainly not be raised during the upcoming summit between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US President George W. Bush on May 23.

This will be the second time that Israel has avoided raising the issue of special aid, which US officials promised at a high level meeting in Washington but failed to deliver afterwards. Earlier this year on February 7 Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni decided in consultation with then-Foreign Ministry director general Ron Prosor and chief of staff Jacob Dayan, not to raise the issue in her meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in their meeting at the State Department.

In a letter to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, following their meeting at the White House in April last year, President Bush promised to provide aid for development in the Galilee and Negev regions. Israel originally asked for $2.2 billion in aid which, in addition, would also cover the military (but not civilian) costs incurred by the disengagement from the Gaza strip in August. Israel subsequently suspended negotiations for aid in the wake of the hurricane disasters that struck New Orleans and the US Gulf Coast the following month.

Some sources believe the decision to avoid raising the issue of aid to the Galilee and Negev in the upcoming Bush-Olmert summit stems from the realization in Jerusalem that Israel will soon have to approach the international community, headed by the US, for a massive aid package to finance the dismantling of outposts in the West Bank. It is believed this could cost at least $10 billion.

“Why deal with trivia, when an unprecedented Israeli request for aid to finance the convergence plan is in the offing?” said an informed source yesterday. Another source said that Olmert would not want to dilute the two main issues on the agenda: The convincing of the administration of the need for the convergence plan, amid reports of opposition by European countries to unilateral action; and the reaching of agreement on the course of action to be pursued against Iran.

Olmert will address a joint session of Congress on May 24.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on May 11, 2006

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2006

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