Washington to cut financial aid to the Palestinians unless they agree to US-brokered peace initiative

US President Donald Trump threatened to withhold future financial aid to the Palestinians over what the American leader called “the Palestinian’ unwillingness to talk peace with Israel.” President Trump wrote on his Twitter page that Washington grants the Palestinians “hundreds of millions of dollars a year,” yet gets no “appreciation or respect” in return. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley clarified the President’s statements, stressing that the move aims at forcing the Palestinians to the negotiating table, while asserting that Washington would not continue to fund the prevailing status quo. When asked regarding the Jerusalem resolution that was passed at the United Nations General Assembly, which called on the United States to retract on its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Ambassador Haley reiterated that Trump’s declaration fulfilled the will of the American people. She further re-emphasized Washington’s aspiration of re-starting the long-stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and will take all necessary measures to bring about a viable solution to the conflict. Amb. Haley said, “I stood proudly, even if I was the only hand in the Security Council, to fight for the will of the people of the United States. They wanted to see that the embassy moved to Jerusalem and we followed through with that. We very much still want to have a peace process. Nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show their will that they want to come to the table. 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 and we want to move forward with the peace process,” the American permanent envoy to the U.N. asserted.

The Palestinian leadership responded to the American threat by condemning, what they claimed to be “cheap blackmail,” while stressing that the Palestinians’ rights could not be bought by President Trump, whom they accused of “disqualifying himself as a ‘honest’ peace broker.” PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said, “I would say that Palestinian rights are not for sale and we will not succumb to blackmail. There are imperatives and requirements for peace and unilaterally President Trump has destroyed them. He has even sabotaged our efforts at achieving a just peace and getting freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. By recognizing occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel he has not only disqualified himself as a peace broker or a mediator, by taking sides and by becoming complacent in Israel’s occupation. He has also totally sabotaged, he has totally destroyed the very foundations of peace,” Dr. Ashrawi declared. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman also commented on the American threat, stressing that while “Jerusalem is not for sale, neither for gold nor for silver…” the Palestinians were “not opposed to returning to peace talks, so long as it is held on the foundation of establishing a Palestinian state on the basis of a two-state solution on lands captured by Israel in the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet ministers praised the position of the United States, in which financial support would only be granted in return for a true Palestinian effort to reach a peace solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Regional cooperation minister Tzachi Hanegbi said, “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. They left the room in April 2014 and for four years almost they are reluctant to negotiate with Israel, and they should not be given so much money from the American taxpayer without no understanding that it’s time for them to get pragmatic, come to their senses and negotiate with Israel,” the Israeli minister stressed.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees released a statement on the matter of Washington’s threat saying, “UNRWA has not been informed by the United States administration of any changes in US funding to the Agency.” According to the agency’s website, the United States is its largest donor with an annual pledge of nearly 370 million dollars.