Trump threatens to cut US aid to Palestine

Washington: US President Donald Trump today threatened to cut aid money to the Palestinian Authority unless it resumes peace talks as he dismissed the global fury over his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The US was the biggest donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in 2016, giving over USD 368,000,000. It is also the largest overall supplier of financial support for the Palestinians.

Trump last month recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite warnings from the Arab leaders, reversing decades of US and international policy on the holy city. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as their future capital.

“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED 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,” Trump tweeted last night.

“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?” asked the US president.

Trump’s last month’s decision prompted Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to cancel a planned meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence in December, forcing him to delay his visit to the Middle East until later this month.

Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the US has committed more than USD 5 billion in bilateral economic and non-lethal security assistance to the Palestinians, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

According to the report, from 2008 to the present, annual Economic Support Fund assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged around USD 400 million. Much of this goes toward US Agency for International Development (USAID)- administered project assistance (through grants and contracts), and the rest toward budget support for the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Earlier in the day, the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that the Administration has stopped funding the Palestinian Authority.

“The president has basically said 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 told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

“And what we saw with the resolution was not helpful to the situation. 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,” Haley said in response to a question about the recent resolution of the UN General Assembly against Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinians, she said, now have to show their will that they want to come to the table.

“As of now they are not coming to the table but they ask for aid. We’re not giving the aid. We are going to make sure that they come to the table and we want to move forward with the peace process,” she said in response to a question.

The US aid to the Palestinians is intended to promote at least three major US policy priorities of interest to Congress.

First — promoting prevention or mitigation of terrorism against Israel; second – fostering stability, prosperity, and self-governance that may incline Palestinians toward peaceful coexistence with Israel and a “two-state solution”; and third – meeting humanitarian needs.