Donald Trump threatens to cut all aid to Palestinians without peace talks with Israel

'Damn your money!' Mr Abbas said to Mr Trump in a recent speech

Clark Mindock
New York
Thursday 25 January 2018 18:57 GMT
Donald Trump threatens to stop aid to Palestine in Davos meeting

President Donald Trump says America will completely cut US funding for the Palestinians unless they come to the negotiating table with Israel to broker a peace deal.

The threat came during a meeting with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland. The President claimed that no other negotiating teams had ever used the millions of dollars America provides in aid for Palestinians through the United Nations as a bargaining chip — but that he was prepared to do so.

“That money is on the table. That money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” Mr Trump said, noting that the Palestinians had snubbed Vice President Mike Pence during a recent visit. “Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace, and they’re going to have to want to make peace, too, or we’re going to have nothing to do with them any longer.”

The Trump administration announced earlier this month that it would withhold $65m in aid for Palestinians, but would continue to send $60m to the United Nations to continue to provide services.

Tweeting at the time, Mr Trump said that the slash in funding — which goes to providing food, health services, and educational services in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria — could be reversed if Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would negotiate with Israel.

In a speech delivered after Mr Trump’s Thursday, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley joined her boss in criticising Mr Abbas, saying that a recent speech of his in which he called Israel a colonialist holdover indulged in “outrageous and discredited conspiracy”theories”. Ms Haley sought to put the burden of a restart to the peace talks on Mr Abbas and the Palestinians, saying that America would not “chase after” the Palestinian leadership.

“The United States remains deeply committed to helping the Israelis and Palestinians reach a historic peace agreement,” Ms Haley said, speaking at the United Nations. “But we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace. To get historic results, we need courageous leaders.”

Palestinians have openly defied those American efforts to force peace negotiations since Mr Trump announced the US would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last month, signalling a massive shift in American policy. In the speech Ms Haley referenced, Mr Abbas said that the US has no place in future peace negotiations, that Israel has effectively killed the Oslo peace accords from 1993 that set up the framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace, but reaffirmed his commitment to non-violence and against terrorism.

“Damn your money!” Mr Abbas said during that speech, referring to Mr Trump’s strategy of withholding aid. “He said, ‘I will give you a peace deal.’ The deal turned out to be a mess. He said, ‘We will not pay for the Palestinians because they stopped the negotiations.’ Where are the negotiations?”

Earlier this week, Palestinian leaders refused to meet with Vice President Mike Pence while he visited the region, the first time since 1993 that a visiting American dignitary did not meet with the Palestinian leadership.

While Mr Pence was visiting with Israeli officials, Mr Abbas flew to Brussels to ask the 28 nations of the European Union to recognise a Palestinian state. That request was made in defiance of American and Israeli positions that a Palestinian state can only come through negotiations.

Mr Netanyahu praised Mr Trump’s decision on the embassy, promising that Israel would remember it for a long time to come.

“This is a historic decision that will be forever etched in the hearts of our people for generations to come,” Mr Netanyahu said. “People say that this pushes peace backward, I say it pushes peace forward, because it recognises history, it recognises the present reality and peace can only be built on the basis of truth.”

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