Palestinian Leaders Slam Trump's Threat to Cut Aid: 'We're Not for Sale'

'Trump won't vanquish us,' Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti says hours after U.S. officials threaten to yank aid from the UN agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a more amicable time, May 3, 2017, at the White House in Washington D.C.
Carlos Barria, Reuters

The Palestinians are not for sale, a Palestinian leader said Wednesday morning, the day after American officials threatened to withhold Palestinian aid funds for recalcitrance in pursuing a U.S.-led peace process.

"Trump will not vanquish us," said Mustafa Barghouti, chairman of the Palestine National Initiative and a member of the Palestinian Central Council on Ashams Radio broadcasting from Nazareth.

Barghouti alleged that the Trump administration's threat to withhold aid had been coordinated with Israel, and was designed to damage UNRWA. He admitted that the Palestinians have yet to set a strategy for contending with the latest American moves.

Mustafa Barghouti (making the V sign), 2005
Olivier Fitoussi

Senior Palestinian leader Saeb Erekat said Trump is "threatening to starve Palestinian children in refugee camps."

On Tuesday Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the UN, said the Trump administration wants to stop funding UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that aids Palestinian refugees, until the Palestinians "return to the negotiating table" with Israel. Trump later doubled down on the threat, implying more broadly via twitter that the U.S. might withhold all aid from the Palestinians.

"It's not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They dont even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel," Trump tweeted. 

Trump then tweeted, "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?"

What that means is anybody's guess, but it could be taken as implying that Washington intends to extract concessions from Israel in exchange for Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Based on figures for 2016, the U.S. is the biggest donor to UNRWA. 

After Trump's tweets, Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO Executive Committee said on Tuesday that Trump was breaking international law and had "singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace."