A second win for Ms. Rice

December 19, 2007

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was as successful in passing the hat for the Palestinians this week as she was in persuading reluctant Arab leaders to attend last month's peace summit. She had to be because the limited progress made at the Annapolis meeting isn't going to be enough to sustain peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority without improvements in the daily lives of its citizens.

That's what the $7.4 billion in aid pledged by about 90 countries and international organizations could potentially secure for the million or more Palestinians living in the West Bank. The donors' keen interest in achieving some relief for impoverished Palestinians could be measured in the pledges made at the Paris conference - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas received considerably more than he was expecting.

The three-year commitments, if honored, would help keep the Palestinian government from bankruptcy and enable Mr. Abbas to pay government workers, shore up his security forces and initiate some development projects across the West Bank and even Gaza, which is now controlled by his rival, the militant group Hamas.

But an infusion of money - and promised reforms - aren't enough to revive the Palestinian economy. Israel has to allow a freer movement of people and traffic for commerce and trade to prosper. The role of Palestinian security forces is critical as well because Israel rightly needs to feel sure that improved access won't amount to gateways for terrorists. For its part, Israel must stop expanding Jewish settlements or engage the Palestinians in a discussion over an exchange of land.

The Annapolis conference ended with a commitment to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the end of 2008. That goal may be easier to reach with Ms. Rice pushing for genuine progress along the way.

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