Donald Trump threatens to cut off aid unless Palestinians “negotiate peace” – Palestinians are unimpressed

The US State Department has already reneged on a pledge to contribute $45 million in food aid, health services and other relief promised to Palestinian refugees this month

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 11:57pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 12:24am

US President Donald Trump has threatened cut off funding to the “disrespectful” Palestinians unless they agree to resume peace talks in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday that the Palestinians “disrespected us a few weeks ago by not allowing our great vice-president” to meet with them and that hundreds of millions of dollars “is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

That was met with disdain by senior Palestinian officials, with one legislator – Hanan Ashrawi – saying: “Not meeting your oppressor is not a sign of disrespect; it is a sign of self-respect.”

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A spokesman for president Mahmoud Abbas said they would not meet with the US administration until it withdrew its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Trump, however, said in the meeting that the US is moving its embassy to Jerusalem “ahead of schedule by years,” adding that he expected to have a “small version” of the embassy by sometime next year.

The US State Department has already reneged on a pledge to contribute $45 million in food aid, health services and other relief promised to Palestinian refugees this month.

Vice-president Mike Pence travelled to Egypt, Jordan and Israel last weekend, but Palestinian leaders refused to meet with him because of Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Netanyahu and Trump have found little to disagree on, a contrast with the Israeli leader’s frequent clashes with former President Barack Obama.

Trump’s Jerusalem announcement in December angered the Palestinians and jeopardised his own administration’s effort to restart peace talks. He has also threatened to scrap Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran unless it’s thoroughly revised, an approach the Israeli leader staunchly supports.

Iran is certain to be the top subject in today’s meeting. Earlier this month Trump issued an ultimatum to other world powers that are party to the Iran nuclear agreement, saying that he won’t continue to waive sanctions lifted under the deal unless it’s revised, giving the other signatories less than four months to resolve the dispute.

Netanyahu told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Davos yesterday that the only way to fix the nuclear deal “is to insert real, not cosmetic, fixes that will prevent Iran’s nuclearisation.”

If Trump decides to abandon the agreement, “then we will back you all the way,” Netanyahu said in the meeting.

European leaders have made clear they believe Iran is abiding by limits on its nuclear programme set out in the deal.

Trump and Netanyahu are also likely to discuss the US peace effort, which a White House official said earlier this week had hit “a bump” after Palestinian leaders shunned American envoys in protest of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement. The White House still plans to unveil a plan in 2018 that will encompass broader regional diplomatic efforts that include Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Trump told Netanyahu that Israel “will pay for” his Jerusalem announcement, an apparent acknowledgement that the Jewish State would have to make a concession in peace talks. Netanyahu said that Trump’s decision on Jerusalem “pushes peace forward.”

this story contains additional reporting by Agence France-Presse.