Palestinians condemn Trump threat to cut aid as 'blackmail'

Saul Bowman
January 6, 2018

On Twitter on Tuesday, Trump said "We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect".

Earlier on Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley threatened to cut off funding to the UN's Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, if the Palestinians refused to engage in peace negotiations.

As one of the authority's largest doners, Trump could inflict "great pain" on the Palestinians, says The Washington Post.

'Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine and it is not for sale for gold or billions, ' Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.

Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP news agency: "We are not against going back to negotiations, but [these should be] based on worldwide laws and resolutions that have recognised an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital".

"By recognizing occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Donald Trump has not only violated global law, but has also singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace and condoned Israel's illegal annexation of the city".

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, said Palestinians would "not be blackmailed" and that Mr Trump had "sabotaged our search for peace, freedom and justice".

According to the monthly "Peace Index" by the Israel Democracy Institute (full results here), 65 percent of Jewish Israelis believed that Trump's declaration last month was in Israel's best interests, as opposed to 23 percent who believed the move damaged them.

Much of the money has gone toward US Agency for International Development-administered project assistance and the rest toward budget support for the Palestinian Authority, which administers limited self-rule in the Palestinian territories under interim peace agreements.

He has heaped pressure on Palestinians to do a deal, threatening to close the de facto "embassy" in Washington in addition to recognising Israel's contested claim on Jerusalem and now threatening aid.

Mr Trump gave no details, but earlier on Tuesday the United States permanent representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, suggested he might halt funding for Unwra. But the Israeli government would not want to see the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, he said.

'Now he dares to blame the Palestinians for the consequences of his own irresponsible actions!'

"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", she added.

The United States is the largest donor to the agency, with a pledge of almost $370m as of 2016, according to UNRWA's website.

The president's decisions last month to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and begin preparations to move the USA embassy there from Tel Aviv were denounced by the Palestinians, who said it showed the U.S. could not be a neutral mediator.

"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".

But there are ways for Israelis and Palestinians to divide sovereignty over the city without ripping Jerusalem apart physically.

On Sunday, the PA said it was recalling its envoy to the United States for consultations, in protest of U.S. actions. But any serious attempt to revive the Israel-Palestinian peace process requires recognizing that the only path to a two-state solution lies through a divided Jerusalem. It later said the ambassador would return.

'We are dealing with a president who says what he thinks clearly and does not resort to diplomatic convolutions that mean nothing, ' Regev told Israel's army radio.

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