17 May Trump wants to turn the money on Palestinians
Outraged by the alleged disrespect of the Palestinian leadership, US President Donald Trump wants to hold back hundreds of millions of dollars in grants.
Trump justified the freezing of payments on Thursday in Davos with the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to receive US Vice President Mike Pence.
The disbursement of the aid funds tied Trump to the willingness of the Palestinians to peace talks. “They denied us respect last week by not allowing our great vice-president to see them,” Trump said at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the Palestinian leadership. “We give them hundreds of millions of dollars and they will not get that money unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”
With their refusal to receive Pence, the Palestinian leadership had responded to Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. With this recognition Trump broke with a decade-long international consensus that the status of Jerusalem should first be determined in a peace agreement with the Palestinians. They claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The Palestinian leadership contradicted Trump’s statements. “It is not a sign of disrespect if you do not meet with the oppressor,” said Palestinian Representative Hanan Ashwari in Ramallah. “It’s a sign of self-respect.” A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said there will be no meetings with US government officials until Trump’s Jerusalem decision is revised. “Palestinian rights are not for sale and Jerusalem is not for sale.”
A direct exchange of blows between the US and the Palestinians occurred shortly after Trump’s Davos statements in the UN Security Council in New York. US Ambassador Nikki Haley directly criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, accusing her of “insulting” Trump. For peace, “courageous leaders” are needed, she said. “We will not run after a Palestinian leadership who lacks the makings of a peace shot.”
Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour dismissed the allegations in the Security Council. The United States is pursuing a “demonization” of Abbas, who sees his “life’s work” in advocating peace, lamented Mansour. The criticism of Trump’s Jerusalem decision was not disrespect, but a decision based on “full respect for the law.”
Already last week, the US had cut its payments to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) by more than half. Washington transferred $ 60 million, while holding back another $ 65 million. For decades, the US was the largest contributor to the relief organization. Now, other countries should go ahead, the State Department argued in Washington.
Despite the strain on the Palestinians, Trump offered his country in Davos as an intermediary between Israel and the Palestinians. “We have a peace proposal, it is an excellent proposal for the Palestinians,” he said. “The Israelis want peace, and I hope the Palestinians want peace too.”