Analysis: US Threats to end Palestinian aid unlikely to revive peace talks

Israeli analysts say Trump’s threat to sever US aid to the Palestinians will not force them back to the negotiating table, nor will it push them to renew relations with Washington.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

The Palestinians say “no” ties with the US, “no” meetings with US peace emissaries, and a big “no” to Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. All of these negatives have combined to turn President Donald Trump’s twitter arsenal against the PA.

Early Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted, “It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, 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…”

A few moments later Trump tweeted, “…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?”

According to the US president, the Palestinians had no legitimate reason to be furious over his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because Israel would have had “to pay” for his declarations with concessions in future negotiations.

The United States currently gives the Palestinian Authority (PA) over $300 million in annual aid and is the largest overall supplier of financial support for the Palestinians. The US wants a return on its money, Trump says Washington was paying “for nothing,” and the US received “no appreciation or respect” in return.

There is apparently no going back for the Palestinians. PA President Mahmoud Abbas insists that the US relinquish its traditional role as the mediator of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and even recalled its envoy to the United States for consultations, in protest of US actions.

How will PA make up for lost aid?

Prof. Menachem Klein of Bar Ilan University says the PA is totally dependent on external funding,  but will survive without American aid. Klein told World Israel News (WIN), “If the US holds back funds, it will definitely create a crisis, but it will not bring on a collapse of the PA. They will make up for the loss of funds by appealing to the Europeans, Qatar and Turkey. They can find alternatives. Europe recently cut support due to domestic needs but they can redirect.

“As far as returning to the peace process, Abbas will definitely not cave in to US demands,” Klein continued. “He will push for an ‘umbrella’ of mediators. like the Middle East Quartet, including the US, Russia, the EU and the UN instead of the US as the sole mediator. They view the current situation as a total failure of the US peace process. They believe that Trump’s administration is fraught with arrogance and is disconnected from reality. Trump’s tweets will not bring them to their knees.”

Dan Diker, a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told WIN, “The US contributes less than 10 percent of the PA’s budget, but this is the first time they have been sent to the woodshed by its largest government sponsor. The US had already threatened to hold back payments due to the Palestinians’ policy of paying salaries of convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons. Trump will now punish the Palestinians for boycotting the US administration and the peace process.”

Life for Palestinians ‘worse since Oslo Accords’

According to Diker, “In private meetings and in public pronouncements ( in Arabic), the Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians have said they are sick and tired of Palestinian rejection of the peace process and their boycott of the Americans. The PA is desperate for money and they will plead for additional funding from a reluctant Europe and elsewhere. The Iranians have their own problems, but they can increase donations to Hamas in Gaza, which may now receive less funding from the PA to pay salaries for its civil servants.”

“Because of developments we will see more and more Palestinians reaching out to Israel for jobs and economic cooperation. They are sick and tired of their government. Life has gotten worse since the Oslo accords and there is a feeling of restiveness,” Diker said.