Trump: Palestinians must talk peace to receive aid, ‘money is on the table’

The US, Trump said, gives “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the Palestinians, and “that money is on the table and that money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

US President Donald Trump threatened Thursday to withhold aid money from the Palestinians until they return to peace talks with Israel as he sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month infuriated the Palestinian leadership, which consequently refused to meet with Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to the Middle East this week. They also declared a new US-led peace push dead, saying Washington can no longer be trusted as an honest broker.

Trump said that decision has consequences. The US, he said, gives “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the Palestinians, and “that money is on the table and that money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

Washington has contributed over $5 billion in economic and security aid to the Palestinians since the mid-1990s. Annual economic aid since 2008 has averaged around $400 million.

Last week, the Trump administration moved to withhold some — but not all — of a scheduled aid payment to the United Nations agency that assists Palestinian refugees. The Trump administration said it would provide $60 million, while keeping $65 million until the UN body undertakes a “fundamental re-examination.”

‘Time for this absurdity to end’

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon praised the move, arguing that UNRWA misuses humanitarian aid to support propaganda against the Jewish state and perpetuate the Palestinians’ plight.

“It is time for this absurdity to end and for humanitarian funds to be directed towards their intended purpose: the welfare of refugees,” Danon said in a statement.

During his visit to Israel this week, Pence told Israeli lawmakers that the U.S. was fast-tracking the embassy plans, aiming to move it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019. Trump said he anticipates having “a small version” of the embassy open sometime next year.

In his remarks in Davos, Trump referenced Pence’s trip to the Middle East, which did not include a meeting with Palestinian leaders. Trump said, “they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them,” adding: “Respect has to be shown to the US or we’re just not going any further.”

Netanyahu thanks Trump for ‘rock-solid support’

Meanwhile, Netanyahu noted that his meeting with Trump was their first since the US leader’s “historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the embassy, and now to expedite the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem.”

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem “will be forever etched in the hearts of our people for generations to come. People say that this pushes peace backward. I say it pushes peace forward, because it recognizes history, it recognizes the present reality. And peace can only be built on the basis of truth. By recognizing history, you’ve made history. And we will always remember that,” Netanyahu stated.

Netanyahu also thanked Trump for his “rock-solid support” at the United Nations, which he referred to as “a house of slander against Israel and against the United States,” and for confronting the Iranian aggression.

“I’ve never seen the realistic alliance between the United States, Israel and your other allies in the region as strong, as unified, as it is under your leadership,” he declared.