JERUSALEM - Palestinians reacted angrily when President Trump threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, and the face off between the Palestinians and Trump puts any future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in doubt.
In a pair of tweets, Trump said: “We pay the Palestinians hundreds 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.”
He added, “With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley explained the tweets.
“I think the president has basically said that he doesn't want to give any additional funding or stop funding until the Palestinians are agreeing to come back to the negotiation table,” Haley said.
“We're trying to move for a peace process, but if that doesn't happen the president's not going to continue to fund that situation,” she added.
U.S. aid accounts for 40 percent of the budget for the U.N.’s Relief and Works Agency (for Palestinian refugees only) better known as UNRWA. It provides millions of dollars to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Many Israeli officials have lobbied the U.S. to stop payment because UNRWA is influenced by Hamas. Some Palestinian officials call Trump’s threat blackmail.
“I would say that Palestinian rights are not for sale, and we will not succumb to blackmail,” said PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi.
“There are imperatives and requirements for peace, and unilaterally President Trump destroyed them,” Ashrawi said.
The war of words between the Palestinian Authority and Trump marked one more disagreement since Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in early December and declared that the U.S. would move its embassy there. But after these latest tweets, Israeli officials had a different take.
“President Trump is absolutely right, it is impossible to wait and wait and wait for so many years for the Palestinians to go forward, and renew the negotiations,” said Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation.
“They left the room in April (2014), and for four years almost they (were) reluctant to negotiate with Israel and they should not be given so much money from the American taxpayer,” Hanegbi said.
Some of that U.S. taxpayer money goes to a policy dubbed “pay to slay” where the PA pays convicted terrorists and their families monthly salaries. The U.S. Congress is close to passing the Taylor Force Act, which would cut off Palestinian aid money unless the practice is stopped. Force was a U.S. citizen who died during a terrorist attack in Israel.
A successful vote in the Senate would send the legislation to the president for his signature.