Rice: No money to settlements

No U.S. money is directed to West Bank settlement building, Condoleezza Rice said in congressional testimony.

“There is a process that we’ve set up for dealing with ‘road map’ obligations of both sides,” the U.S. secretary of state said Wednesday, referring to the peace plan launched by President Bush in 2003 that requires in its first phase an end to settlement expansion and anti-Israel violence. “I can assure you that we are following very closely to assure that U.S. dollars are not being used to support the settlement activity.”

During her testimony before the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee, Rice was pressed on the settlement issue by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.).

“Can you give me assurances that no U.S. funds in this budget will be used to facilitate or enable or secure the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which violates the road map?” McCollum asked.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) pressed Rice on relief for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which Israel is blockading in a bid to end rocket attacks on Israeli’s South. Lee called the situation in Gaza “deplorable.”

Rice noted a recent influx of U.S. cash through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency and said she had directly intervened with Israel in allowing in supplies. Israel insists its blockade has not hindered emergency supplies.

“It would be extremely helpful, of course, if Hamas were not firing rockets into Israel,” Rice added, referring to the terrorist group controlling Gaza.

Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the subcommittee’s chairwoman, and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) asked Rice about getting Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Arab nations to make good on pledges to infuse cash into Palestinian areas. Lowey said such pledges should not be contingent on Israel easing travel conditions in the West Bank.

“I’m sure you would agree that there is housing that can be built, there are jobs that can be created in the West Bank without moving a roadblock,” Lowey chided Rice after the secretary had suggested that security measures hindered economic projects.

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