Live

Watch CBSN Live

U.S. Will Likely Donate $900M To Gaza

The United States will likely donate more than $900 million for the reconstruction of Gaza, a U.S. official said Monday, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepared to attend a donors conference for the war-ravaged territory next week.

Israeli and Palestinian officials said earlier Monday that Clinton will visit Israel and the West Bank during the first week of March for her first trip to the region as America's top diplomat.

CBS News correspondent Robert Berger reports that when Clinton was First Lady she developed warm ties with Israel and is seen as a good friend of the Jewish state. But with hawkish Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu set to become prime minister, many believe U.S.-Israel relations are heading for trouble. Netanyahu opposes the U.S. push for a Palestinian state.

Clinton said during her Asia trip this month that she would attend an international donors conference in Egypt on March 2 to discuss reconstruction in Gaza.

She provided no other details, but a U.S. official in the United States said Monday that the Obama administration's donation will likely top $900 million in humanitarian and rebuilding aid to the Palestinian Authority to help Gaza recover from Israel's offensive against Hamas last month.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the donation had not received final approval, said the exact amount was still to be determined.

Gaza reconstruction is off to a slow start, reports Berger, because the U.S., Europe and Israel want to bypass Hamas. They don't want cement and other raw materials to go to rebuilding Hamas bunkers and smuggling tunnels instead of Palestinian homes.

The U.S. official told the Associated Press that the aid would not go to Hamas. The U.S. recognizes the West Bank-based government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and has no formal contacts with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which runs a separate Palestinian administration in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli officials, meanwhile, said Clinton will arrive in Israel on March 2 for meetings with the country's top leaders. Israel is currently ruled by a caretaker government as Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu cobbles together a new coalition.

The Israeli officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the visit had not been announced by the State Department, which has not released Clinton's schedule for next week.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Clinton also would visit the West Bank during her stay.