Israeli Officials Discuss Gaza Pullout at White House

Published July 11, 2005

| Associated Press

Israeli officials called at the White House Monday in a bid for $2.2 billion in U.S. aid to help fund the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza (search) and part of the West Bank and security measures linked to the pullback.

Separately, an Israeli delegation resumed talks at the Pentagon on U.S. efforts to restrict Israeli weapons deals with China and other nations.

Israel is due to relinquish Gaza and remove all Jewish residents and Israeli troops later this summer. Four Israeli settlements on the West Bank also are to be abandoned.

It is a move that has the support of the Bush administration along with an expectation that if it proceeds smoothly, Israel would be encouraged to give up more West Bank land to the Palestinians for a state of their own.

"We'll certainly be interested in hearing what the Israeli government has to say," Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said.

Asked if Israel would be given the $2.2 billion, on top of about $2.3 billion in annual U.S. military and economic assistance, Casey said, "there has been no request made, and I certainly cannot respond to anything we haven't heard yet."

Israel's delegation was headed by Yossi Bachar, director general of the finance ministry. National Security Council (search) and State Department officials participated in the meeting.

Earlier, in Jerusalem, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres (search) said Israel was requesting $2.2 billion and that some of the money would be used to remove settlers and their possessions.

Last month, Israeli and U.S. delegations met for two days at the Pentagon without concluding an agreement to govern Israeli weapons deals.

The talks focused, in part, on Israel's planned sale to China of spare parts for Harpy armed drone aircraft.

The Bush administration objects on grounds it would upgrade China's anti-radar aircraft.

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