WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump appeared to threaten to cut off assistance to the Palestinians, saying they were not interested in making peace with Israel.
Trump’s apparent threat came Tuesday in a tweet, one in a succession in which he upbraided Pakistan for taking American aid and not doing enough to combat terrorism.
“It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others,” he said. “As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED 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,” he continued. “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?”
It’s not clear what Trump meant by having taken Jerusalem “off the table.” The Palestinians last month walked away from Trump administration attempts to revive the peace process after Trump broke with 70 years of U.S. executive branch policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump emphasized at the time that his recognition did not presume the final status of the city, which the Palestinians also claim as a capital.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has since said that he is not willing to return to talks as long as the United States is the sole mediator.
Trump’s top negotiators in the peace process are his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. Neither has indicated that they see the peace process as suspended; Greenblatt was in Israel last week to advance the effort.
U.S. funding for the Palestinians is $260 million, separate from about $50 million that helps pay for Palestinian security services. Congress is considering measures, backed by the centrist and right-wing pro-Israel community, that would slash all but a small portion of the humanitarian aid. Israel opposes slashing security assistance, as it is seen as a means of keeping the West Bank quiet.
In response, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Twitter feed said Trump’s Jerusalem decision had damaged peace prospects. “By recognizing Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Donald Trump has not only violated of international law, but he has also singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace and condoned Israel’s illegal annexation of the city,” it said. ” Now he dares to blame the Palestinians for the consequences of his own irresponsible actions!”