Trump on Palestinian aid: 'The money is on the table'

- Januari 25, 2018

President Donald Trump said Thursday that foreign aid to Palestinians would remain "on the table" in peace negotiations with Israel until their leaders reentered talks.

The president also criticized their leaders for having "disrespected" Vice President Mike Pence by not meeting with him during his recent Middle East trip.

During a bilateral meeting between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the two world leaders touted the U.S.' decision to move their embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move that has drawn the ire of Palestinians and their officials.

But Trump said that while he had taken the embassy "off the table," U.S. aid to Palestinians would remain a bargaining chip until their leaders reengaged with the U.S. and Israel in peace talks.

"The money is on the table. The money was never on the table. I'll tell you up front, we give them tremendous amounts, hundreds of millions of dollars a year, that money is on the table," Trump said in Davos. "Because why should we do that as a country if they're doing nothing for us? And what we want to do for them is help them. We want to create peace."

He added: "That money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace, and they're going to have to want to make peace too or we're going to have nothing to do with it any longer."

It was unclear to what extent Trump would be willing to withhold aid to Palestinians. But earlier this month the Trump administration announced it would halt about $65 million in payments to the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency or UNRWA, an organization that serves Palestinian refugees.

The announcement came just two weeks after Trump questioned the merits of providing such assistance on Twitter, writing on Jan. 2 that "with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

The president, in his first sit-down with Netanyahu since announcing plans for the embassy move last year, criticized Palestinian authorities for not meeting with Pence in his visit to Israel earlier this week.

"They disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them," he said.

Pence announced during remarks at the Knesset, Israel’s legislature, on Monday that the embassy in Jerusalem would open in 2019. His address was marked by protests from Arab Israeli lawmakers, who according to national media were escorted out of the building after contesting the comments.

Pence told the Associated Press that he was "open" to meeting with Palestinian officials during the visit, but was reportedly rebuffed by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Trump insisted Thursday that Palestinian leaders would need to show more "respect" if discussions were to progress.

"We'll see what happens with the peace process, but respect has to be shown to the U.S.," Trump said Thursday.


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