Israel's government will request $2.2 billion from the Bush administration to help pay for its planned evacuation of the Gaza Strip and four Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank later this summer, Israeli officials said Monday.
The amount, which would be paid over three years, is equal to roughly one year's worth of U.S. military assistance to Israel. It represents one of the largest one-time aid requests Israel has made to the United States.
According to Israeli officials, one-third of the money would help defray expenses associated with the redeployment of Israeli military bases and troops following the pullout from Gaza, scheduled to begin Aug. 15. The United States helped pay similar redeployment costs in the 1980s when Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula following the U.S.-brokered Camp David peace accords with Egypt.
The remaining two-thirds of the aid would be used to develop Israel's Galilee region in the north and the Negev desert in the south. The Israeli government is encouraging some of the 8,500 settlers in Gaza and about 700 others from the West Bank to move to those areas.
Israeli officials said part of the basis for the aid request was an April 2004 letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which recognized that "Israel believes it is important to bring new opportunities to the Negev and the Galilee" as part of setting conditions for the U.S.-backed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
-- Scott Wilson