Trump: U.S. Cut Financial Aid to Palestinians as Means of Pressuring Them Back Into Negotiations

Trump tells U.S. Jewish leaders that his peace team made 'great progress' over past year ■ U.S. president also says he expects Iran to return to negotiations over new nuclear deal after he slapped sanctions on Tehran

President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, May 23, 2017.
Evan Vucci/AP

WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump said on Thursday that his administration has stopped giving financial aid to the Palestinians as a way of putting pressure on them to return to American-led negotiations with Israel.

“I told them, we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying," the U.S. president said.

Trump made the comments during a conference call with Jewish leaders and Rabbis ahead of Rosh Hashanah. He also added that his team is working on a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and has made “great progress” during the past year.

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Trump also said that he expects Iran’s leaders to return to negotiations on a new nuclear deal with the United States, as a result of the sanctions his administration has reinstated on Iran. He said that former senior officials in his cabinet, such as previous Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, had advised him not to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, but he decided to do so against their advice.

Besides Trump, two other speakers on the call were his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and his ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Ambassador Friedman told the participants on the call that by next year, the new embassy in Jerusalem will have double the amount of staff it has today. He also said that there were still plans to expand the embassy compound.

Trump also repeated during the conversation his claim that the Palestinians will somehow benefit from his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Unlike in previous cases, he did not say that the United States will do something for them, but rather, said vaguely that Israel will “do something good” for the Palestinians. He did not provide specific details. Ambassador Friedman recently denied that there was any need to compensate the Palestinian side for the Jerusalem decision.

Trump said in August that Israel will pay a "higher price" in peace negotiations with the Palestinians after his decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Similar to last year’s call, most of the participants were supporters of Trump’s policies, the majority of them from the Orthodox community. A number of leading Reform and Conservative rabbis told Haaretz they were either not invited to the call or chose to not participate.

Last year’s call was officially boycotted by the Reform and Conservative movements because of Trump’s expressions of support for the far-right demonstrators in Charlottesville.