Trump Threatens To Cut Off US Aid To Palestinian Authority

Shortly after the US announced it would withhold some $255 million in planned aid for Pakistan, president Trump once again threatened to cut off aid, this time to the Palestine Authority, saying they were no longer willing to negotiate, and acknowledging that his push to broker peace in the Middle East has stalled.

In a pair of tweets on Tuesday afternoon, Trump said the U.S. pays “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."

“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?” he wrote.

According to Bloomberg, the U.S. disbursed about $616 million in foreign aid for the Palestinian Authority in 2016, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s website. That funding included support for debt payments, water supply and sanitation and health projects, according to the agency.

As AP notes, Trump infuriated many in the Middle East when he announced late last year that the U.S. 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 Mideast peace broker, calling the decision “a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process."

To some, Tuesday’s tweets mark an admission by Trump that his decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has thrown a wrench into his administration’s plans to restart the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. Trump tasked son-in-law Jared Kushner to restart 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 dollars to an unspecified list of countries that don’t reciprocate.

“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 Jan. 1 tweet lambasting Pakistan for failing to do enough to combat terror groups while taking U.S. aid. “No more!” Trump had tweeted Monday.

Earlier in the day, Trump’s envoy to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley, foreshadowed Trump’s warning at the U.N. Security Council when she said the president doesn’t 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.”

While Trump’s "Mideast peace team" held meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders for nearly a year ahead of an expected peace proposal, by recognizing 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 was captured by Israel in 1967, for their capital.

In December the international community condemned Trump’s decision, with the United Nations General Assembly voting 128-9 to back a resolution critical of the move. Palestinians consider East Jerusalem to be their capital and any final decision about the city has long been considered something to be worked out in joint peace talks.