For the second time in two weeks, President Donald Trump threatened to take away international aid over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On Tuesday, he accused the Palestinians of refusing to negotiate peace with Israelis, and indicated that U.S. aid should be enough to get “respect” and “appreciation” by way of negotiating with Israel.
The aid to which Trump is referring to amount to roughly $400 million a year, and funds a number of initiatives — everything from conflict mitigation to building infrastructure (the U.S. gives Israel a base of $3 billion in military aid each year). Additionally, Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made it clear that humanitarian funding for millions of Palestinian refugees would not be protected.
“The president has basically said he doesn’t want to give any additional funding, or stop funding, until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table,” Haley told reporters when asked if U.S. funding to the U.N. Relief Works Agency would be spared.
Trump’s comments drew praise from Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev, who said he was “very satisfied … [Trump] is saying the time has come to stop saying flattering words [to the Palestinians], Reuters reported.
But Trump also drew criticism from opposition politician Tzipi Livni, who said that it would be irresponsible to trigger another humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The president’s tweets were harshly criticized by Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi, who accused Trump of trying to blackmail the Palestinian people.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestinians were open to negotiations provided they get to build their own state along territorial lines established prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. (Israel sees Jerusalem as its “eternal” city; Trump said negotiations over the city have been “taken off the table.”)
Trump’s December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem — disputed territory — as the Israeli capital and to eventually move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv has drawn international criticism and outrage, resulting in weeks of protests in several countries and a call to arms by militant groups in the Middle East and Africa.
The U.N. Security Council, of which the United States is a member, voted 14 to 1 on December 18, to nullify Trump’s decision, with the United States wielding its veto power to knock down the draft resolution. Haley called the vote an “insult” that would “not be forgotten.”
Looking ahead to a December 21 vote at the U.N. General Assembly vote on the same subject, Haley issued a threat on Twitter, saying that the United States would be “taking names.”
Trump followed up, saying countries that voted to nullify his decision in the non-binding resolution would see a cut in funding, saying, “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
While several countries desperate for U.S. aid, such as South Sudan, which is facing an epic famine, abstained from the vote, the resolution nonetheless passed by a wide margin, with 128 countries voting in favor, nine against, and 35 abstaining.