Angry reaction on Trump threat to withdraw Palestinian aid

Spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas says Jerusalem ‘not for sale, not for gold nor silver’

Palestinian demonstrators in Hebron in the West Bank set fire last month to a banner depicting multiple US flags after US president Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Photograph: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

Palestinian demonstrators in Hebron in the West Bank set fire last month to a banner depicting multiple US flags after US president Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Photograph: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

 

Palestinians have reacted angrily to the threat by US president Donald Trump to cut aid if the Palestinians refuse to engage in peace talks with Israel.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, said on Wednesday that “Jerusalem and its holy places are not for sale, not for gold nor silver”.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the Palestinians “will not be blackmailed”, adding that Mr Trump “singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace” by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month.

Israeli officials welcomed Mr Trump’s threat to cut Palestinian funding. Culture minister Miri Regev said the US president was restoring sanity to international discourse.

“These were very clear statements by a president who said: stop grovelling, stop the hypocrisy. We must say things as they are and restore a sane discourse to the entire world.”

Possible consequences

However, opposition Knesset member Tzipi Livni warned of the possible consequences of cutting aid.

Tweets

“A responsible and serious Israeli government should quietly tell Trump that it would be in Israel’s interest to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and to continue to fund Palestinian security forces co-operating with Israel.”

In a pair of tweets, Mr Trump said the US pays the Palestinians “hundreds of millions of dollars a year and gets no appreciation or respect”.

“They don’t even want to negotiate a long-overdue peace treaty with Israel. With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” Mr Trump tweeted.

Mr Trump infuriated Palestinians and Muslims across the Middle East when he announced last month that Washington now recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and plans to relocate its embassy there, reversing decades of US policy and igniting protests.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

While the Palestinians have not closed the door to a potential deal with Israel, Mr Abbas said the announcement on Jerusalem had destroyed US credibility as a peace broker.

Mr Trump said his December 6th decision merely recognises the reality that Jerusalem already serves as Israel’s capital and is not meant to prejudge the final borders of the city.

Jerusalem ‘off the table’

In his tweets, Mr Trump wrote that his decision had taken “Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more”.

Earlier on Tuesday, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley foreshadowed Mr Trump’s warning, announcing at the UN Security Council that the US does not plan to continue funding Unrwa, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, unless the Palestinians make efforts to move forward on peace talks.

“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 that they come to the table.”

The US is the largest donor to the agency, pledging nearly $370 million in 2016, almost 30 per cent of Unrwa’s budget.