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Feb 25/09.  The rival Palestinian governments — U.S.-backed moderates in the West Bank and the Islamic militants of Hamas in Gaza — presented competing plans Wednesday for rebuilding war-ravaged Gaza, each seeking roughly $2.8 billion in foreign aid.

The moderates, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, believe they can raise the full amount at an international donors conference for Gaza next week in Egypt. The U.S. is expected to contribute about $900 million, and Saudi Arabia has promised $1 billion.

However, Gaza would need open borders and an internationally accepted government for reconstruction to move forward smoothly. At the moment, it has neither.

Hamas is widely shunned as a terrorist group, and Israel and Egypt have kept Gaza cut off from the world since the militants violently seized the territory in June 2007, leaving Abbas only in control of the West Bank.

In one scenario, Hamas and Abbas would reconcile, form a joint government and bring about an end to the Gaza blockade. Representatives of Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement set a new round of reconciliation talks this week, but chances are seen as slim because of deep distrust between them.

In the absence of a unity deal, the rival governments have moved ahead with separate plans for rebuilding Gaza after Israel's three-week military offensive, waged to halt Hamas rocket fire on Israeli border towns. The fighting killed some 1,300 Palestinians and damaged or destroyed thousands of homes.



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