Palestinians erupt over Trump aid threat without Israel talks

‘Issue of Jerusalem is a holy issue – it is the key to war and peace in the region’

Palestinian demonstrators shout slogans as they hold posters with  crossed out  images of US president Donald Trump and vice-president Mike Pence during a protest against Mr Pence’s visit to Israel, in the West Bank city of Nablus, earlier this week. Photograph: Abed Omar Qusini/Reuters

Palestinian demonstrators shout slogans as they hold posters with crossed out images of US president Donald Trump and vice-president Mike Pence during a protest against Mr Pence’s visit to Israel, in the West Bank city of Nablus, earlier this week. Photograph: Abed Omar Qusini/Reuters

 

The Palestinian leadership has reacted angrily to threats by US president Donald Trump to withhold aid if it refuses to negotiate with Israel.

“This policy of threats ... will not work with the Palestinian people,” spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said.

“The issue of Jerusalem is a holy issue – it is the key to war and peace in the region. It cannot be bought or sold with all the world’s money. If Jerusalem is off the negotiating table, so is the US,” he added.

Mr Trump made his threat to withhold aid following a meeting on Thursday with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, during which he said he had “taken Jerusalem off the table” by recognising the city as Israel’s capital.

“We give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support. That money is on the table, and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” he said.

Last week, the US cut more than half of its funding to Unrwa, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

‘Disrespecting’ US

Mr Trump also accused the Palestinian leadership of “disrespecting” the US by refusing to meet vice-president Mike Pence during his Middle East visit earlier this week.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi responded by saying “not meeting your oppressor is not a sign of disrespect, it is a sign of self-respect”.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the president’s latest remarks showed “the US has disqualified itself from playing a role in achieving peace” and that his decision on Jerusalem was a “wake-up call” to Arab leaders.

“There will be no peace without East Jerusalem being the capital of Palestine, ” he said, adding that the Palestinians would continue to pursue statehood while Mr Trump fuelled “international anarchy”.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Washington envoy, accused Mr Trump of “backstabbing” the Palestinians.

“You didn’t take Jerusalem off the table – you took away the whole table,” he said, addressing the Middle East Institute, a DC think-tank. “No Palestinian will sit at it.”

Mr Zomlot indicated that threats from Mr Trump would not soften the Palestinians’ position or motivate them to re-engage with the White House. “If the choice is between starving the people of Palestine and surrendering rights,” he said, “the people will not choose surrendering their rights.”