The funds put forward in Paris far exceed the $5.6bn requested by the beleaguered Palestinian Authority for a three-year programme of economic reform. But there are significant doubts over how the money can be spent effectively when the Palestinian territories remain shackled by Israeli occupation.

A coherent economic policy and perceptible improvements in Palestinian life will remain elusive without some easing of the Israeli stranglehold on the movement of people, goods and services.

The underwhelming response to the renewed expansion of settlements near Jerusalem, announced both shortly before and since the donor conference, is another difficulty. They will do nothing to alter perceptions in Ramallah and Gaza City that, despite the apparent generosity of the latest gifts, they have few true friends among the world’s most powerful nations.

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been heavily courting the Arab world, has called for an immediate freeze on settlement building, but Tony Blair, Middle East envoy to the quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia, sought to play down the expansions, before conceding they were unhelpful.

Neither Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have sufficient domestic support to convince sceptics that the Annapolis timetable has any chance of success, without firm action from the quartet to effect changes on the ground.

If both sides feel that settlement building can continue with impunity while talks between the two sides lend only the guise of progress, the process will soon dissolve in familiar acrimony.