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09 Aug 2020, Edition - 1853, Sunday

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World News

Trump threatens to cut US aid to Palestinians to force peace talks

theguardian.com

President says US gets ‘no appreciation or respect’ from Palestinian Authority after it recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to threaten to cut off US aid money to the Palestinian Authority, saying they were no longer willing to negotiate.

Trump, in a pair of tweets, said the US paid “the Palestinians HUNDRED [sic] 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: “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 infuriated many in the Middle East when he announced late last year the US would consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the announcement destroyed Trump’s credibility as a Middle East peace broker, calling the decision “a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process”.

Tuesday’s tweets mark a tacit admission by Trump that his decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem had thrown a wrench into his administration’s plans to restart the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. Trump gave son-in-law Jared Kushner the task of restarting the effort, and brought his former attorney, Jason Greenblatt, into the White House to lead the negotiations, which he had dubbed “the ultimate deal”.

On Twitter, Trump also issued a threat to cut off foreign aid to an unspecified list of countries.

“It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others,” Trump tweeted, appearing to reference a 1 January tweet lambasting Pakistan for failing to do enough to combat terror groups while taking US aid. “No more!” Trump had tweeted on Monday.

US leaders of both parties have long utilised foreign assistance dollars, a minor percentage of the overall budget, to promote American interests abroad, alleviate humanitarian crises and support oppressed peoples.

Trump’s envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, foreshadowed Trump’s warning earlier on Tuesday at the security council. Haley said the president did not want to give any more funds “until the Palestinians are willing to come back to the negotiation table”.

“We still very much want to have a peace process. Nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show they want to come to the table,” Haley said. “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.”

Trump’s Middle East peace team had held meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders for nearly a year before an expected peace proposal.

But by recognising Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, Trump was seen by the Palestinians as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967, for their capital.

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