January 03, 2018
President says US gets ‘no appreciation or respect’ from Palestinian Authority after it recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Trump threatens to cut US aid to Palestinians
Donald Trump has dramatically escalated his conflict with the Palestinian leadership, threatening to cut funding for the Palestinian Authority unless it recommences peace talks.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, earlier said the US would cut funds to UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, unless the Palestinian Authority went back to the negotiating table.
In what appeared to be an angry and defensive acknowledgement that his quest for the “ultimate deal” of Middle East peace has foundered following his controversial recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump lashed out at the Palestinian leadership.
In a pair of tweets, he said the US paid “the Palestinians HUNDRED [sic] OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue … peace treaty with Israel.”
“We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
As ever, quite what Trump had in mind was left vague, but one key Palestinian recipient of US funding is the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, which cooperate with their counterparts in Israel. US funding for the Palestinians is $260m, with an additional $50m used to support Palestinian security services.
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine and it is not for sale for gold or billions,” a spokesman for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said in reply.
The Israeli culture minister Miri Regev said Trump had made “very clear statements” to the Palestinians to “stop grovelling, stop the hypocrisy.
“We must say things as they are and restore a sane discourse to the entire world. He is creating a normative language in the international sphere.”
The US vice-president, Mike Pence, is scheduled to visit Jerusalem later this month, after a planned trip in December was cancelled.
Trump’s tweet also appeared to imply he had intended to extract concessions from Israel for his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – confirmed to the Guardian by well-informed Palestinian officials who had suggested at the time of the Jerusalem announcement that Trump had made vague promises to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in a telephone call.
There is evidence of growing moves in Palestinian society not only to boycott diplomatic contacts with the Trump administration but also to cut ties with NGOs that receive US funding.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), accused Trump of sabotaging the peace process. Trump had not only violated international law, but also “single-handedly destroyed the very foundations of peace”, Ashrwai said.
As has become familiar in the year of his chaotic presidency, Trump caught both US aid recipients and observers by surprise.
Chris Gunness, an UNWRA spokesman, said the agency had not been informed of any change in US policy or funding.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, of the liberal US Jewish pressure group J Street, was also baffled, tweeting: “The only thing the president has accomplished by saying he’s taking Jerusalem ‘off the table’ is to ensure he’ll have no place at the table where the conflict will be resolved diplomatically and a peaceful, secure future for the Jewish or Palestinian peoples ensured.
“In threatening to cut off future ‘huge’ payments to the Palestinians, the president is actually posing a direct threat to Israel’s security & wellbeing. American aid supports training for Palestinian security forces who have been partners of the IDF in preventing terror.”
Tuesday’s tweets mark a tacit admission by Trump that his decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem had thrown a wrench into his administration’s plans to restart the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
Trump gave his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the task of restarting the effort, and brought his former attorney Jason Greenblatt into the White House to lead the negotiations, which he had dubbed “the ultimate deal”.
Trump also issued a threat on Twitter to cut off foreign aid to an unspecified list of countries.
“It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others,” Trump tweeted, appearing to reference a 1 January tweet lambasting Pakistan for failing to do enough to combat terror groups while taking US aid. “No more!” Trump had tweeted on Monday.
US leaders of both parties have long utilised foreign assistance dollars, a minor percentage of the overall budget, to promote American interests abroad, alleviate humanitarian crises and support oppressed peoples.
Haley had foreshadowed Trump’s warning earlier on Tuesday when she told the UN security council that the president did not want to give any more funds “until the Palestinians are willing to come back to the negotiation table”.
“We still very much want to have a peace process. Nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show they want to come to the table,” Haley said. “As of now, they’re not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We’re not giving the aid. We’re going to make sure that they come to the table.”
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