JERUSALEM (JTA) — The international community reportedly pledged about $5.4 billion in reconstruction aid for Gaza at a donors’ conference in Cairo.
The French news agency AFP cited the foreign minister of Norway, co-host of Sunday’s conference, in reporting the figure.
Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States would contribute $212 million in additional aid to the Palestinians. However, only $75 million will go to urgent Gaza relief; the remainder will go to the Palestinian Authority, including West Bank programs. The U.S. has provided more than $400 million in assistance to the Palestinians over the last year, with $330 million donated since the start of this summer’s 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Israeli representatives did not attend the conference, reportedly based on a tacit understanding between Israel and Egypt, which feared that Arab countries would not send representatives if the Israelis were there.
Israel and the Palestinians must return to the peace table, Kerry said. Nine months of U.S.-led negotiations ended in April.
“A cease-fire is not peace, and we’ve got to find a way to get back to the table and help people make tough choices, real choices — choices that everybody in this room and outside of it understands have been on the table for too long. Choices about more than just a cease-fire, ” Kerry said.
Israel and Gaza have engaged in conflict three times in the last six years, each conflict requiring major rebuilding efforts.
“The United States remains fully, totally committed to returning to the negotiations not for the sake of it, but because the goal of this conference and the future of this region demand it,” Kerry said. “There is nothing sustainable about the status quo.”
In his address to the conference, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also called on Israel to return to talks.
At the opening, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promoted the Arab peace initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002 in which the countries of the Arab League offer Israel full recognition in return for all land won by Israel in 1967 as well as a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.