Aug. 18, 2005 – A major Muslim-American rights organization joined other critics of US policy toward Israel by demanding the Bush Administration reject a recent request by Israel for help funding the evacuation of settlements it established illegally in the Gaza Strip.
- Palestinians Look Forward to Removal of Settlements, Troops (Aug 16, 2005)
- Gaza Disengagement, Resistance Continue Amid Tragic Incidents (Aug 18, 2005)
Israel, an economically strong country, is already the largest recipient of direct US aid at more than $2.3 billion annually. The figure does not include loan guarantees and other grants not technically considered foreign aid. Nevertheless, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly asked for an additional $2.2 billion aid package to help defray the costs of relocating some 8,500 Gaza settlers to new homes.
The entire Gaza disengagement process is currently estimated by the Israeli Financial Ministry to cost less than $2 billion.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a press statement Tuesday that Washington should offer the aid to Palestinians affected by the ongoing occupation instead of to the settlers who confiscated Palestinian land for their own use.
"American taxpayers should not be forced to pay for the relocation of settlers who, supported and defended by successive Israeli governments, chose to live illegally on land that was not their own," wrote CAIR. "Such funds could be better used to improve conditions for ordinary Palestinians whose lives have been devastated by decades of brutal occupation."
On average, households evicted from Gaza settlements will be given $440,000 in cash, with rewards for some families expected to reach $1 million, according to the Israeli Financial Ministry, the daily Haâ€™aretz reported this week.
The US State Department reports that it has sent "assessment teams" to Israel to evaluate the prospects of providing further aid. The Department also says it is considering additional aid for Palestinians in the wake of the Gaza disengagement, but no details on such a package have been made available. The US has pledged just $350 million in aid to the Palestinian National Authority for 2006.
President George W. Bush has previously made overtures toward the idea of aiding Israel in its efforts to withdraw settlers and military forces from the Gaza Strip, a territory it occupied in 1967 and to which it began permitting civilians to settle in the 1970s.