Senior Israeli officials reacted with satisfaction Wednesday to news that US President George W. Bush tapped Paul Wolfowitz as his choice to be the next head of the World Bank.
Wolfowitz, currently Deputy Defense Secretary to Donald Rumsfeld, is slated to replace James Wolfensohn, who will end 10 years as World Bank President on June 1.
Wolfowitz’s appointment to head the World Bank will have significance for Israel since the World Bank is expected to play a key economic role in Gaza after Israel’s withdrawal.
Wolfowitz, who has become a lightening rod in Washington because of the prominent role he played in developing the US strategy in Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein, is a leading neo-conservative.
He is considered a friend of Israel who knows the issues in the Middle East very well. Although widely viewed as a leading hawk in the Bush Administration, he supports a two state solution here and has not demonstrated over the years emotional attachment to the settlement movement.
The World Bank is expected to supervise the implementation of hundreds of million of dollars worth of projects to rebuild Gaza. One official said that Wolfowitz would likely ensure that the Palestinians fulfill strict conditions regarding reform and democratization in order to get the money.
“He is a no-nonsense administrator who knows what needs to be done in terms of reform and democratization,” one senior official said. “The appointment ensures that Bush has a man in an important institution whom he trusts,” he said.
The World Bank is also the body that will oversee the channeling of millions of dollars into the Galilee and Negev for development of these regions as well.
The US traditionally chooses the head of the 184-member World Bank, a 184-member institution. The Bank’s 24 member board will now have to vote on the Wolfowitz nomination, which is expected to stir a lively debate in Europe, where Wolfowitz is a highly controversial figure.