Trump Threatens to Cut Palestinian Aid; Says Israel Would Have 'Had to Pay' for Jerusalem Recognition

Trump says Jerusalem is now 'off negotiating table' ■ Comments come after UN ambassador Haley threatened UNRWA aid cut until Palestinians return to negotiations

President Donald Trump listens people speak in support of Republican tax policy reform, during an event in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Washington.
President Donald Trump listens people speak in support of Republican tax policy reform, during an event in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Washington. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP

U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States may withhold future payments to the Palestinians because they are "no longer willing to talk peace" with Israel, and that Israel would have "had to pay more" in future negotiations in return for his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.

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Trump made the comments on Twitter on Tuesday, saying: "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 don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel."

>>FACT CHECK: How much funding does the U.S. give the Palestinians - and what would happen if Trump cuts it

Trump went on to write: "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?"

Trump's tweet implied that he intended to extract possible future concessions from Israel for his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and that in light of the subsequent Palestinian decision to stop all engagements with the Trump administration, he plans to significantly decrease American funding to the Palestinian Authority.

In response to the Trump's tweets, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that Trump had "not only violated international law," but had "singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace."

Ashwari accused Trump of sabotaging the Palestinians' "search for peace, freedom and justice," charging that the U.S president was now blaming the Palestinians "for the consequences of his own irresponsible actions!"

Trump's comments came hours after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said during a press conference in New York that the Trump administration would cut funding to UNRWA, the UN's agency for aiding Palestinian refugees, unless the Palestinian Authority went back to the negotiating table.

It was not immediately clear from Haley's comments if she was referring only to UNRWA's funding, or to general U.S. funding related to the Palestinian Authority, but either way, her statement will be perceived as a threat and an attempt to coerce the Palestinians into peace talks under the guidance of the Trump administration.

"He doesn't want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table, and what we saw with the resolution was not helpful to the situation," Haley said. "We're trying to move for a peace process, but if that doesn't happen, the president is not going to continue to fund that situation."

Haley added that "I stood proudly, even if I was the only hand in the Security Council, to fight for the will of the people of the United States. They wanted to see the embassy moved to Jerusalem and we followed through with that. We very much still want to have a peace process, nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show the world they want to come to the table. As of now, they're not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We're not giving the aid, we're going to make sure they come to the table and we want to move forward with the peace process."

Thus far, UNRWA has not been informed of any changes in U.S. funding to the agency, organization spokesman Christopher Gunness said.

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