Thu, Jan 04, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Trump threatens aid freeze to Palestine, drawing ire, praise

Reuters, RAMALLAH, West Bank

Palestinians yesterday sit outside their homes in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.

Photo: Reuters

Palestinians yesterday condemned as blackmail US President Donald Trump’s threat to withhold aid payments over what he called the Palestinians’ unwillingness to talk peace with Israel.

Trump drew praise from a minister in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, but a warning from a former Israeli peace negotiator of the dangers in cutting off financial assistance to the Palestinians.

Trump on Tuesday wrote on Twitter that Washington gives Palestinians “HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel ... with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

“We will not be blackmailed,” Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in response.

“Jerusalem is not for sale, neither for gold nor for silver,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinians were not opposed to returning to peace talks that collapsed in 2014, but only on the basis of establishing a state of their own along the lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War in 1967, Abu Rdainah said.

A report prepared for the US Congress in December 2016 by the US Congressional Research Service said that annual US economic support to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged about US$400 million since fiscal 2008.

Much of the money has gone toward US Agency for International Development-administered project assistance and the rest toward budget support for the Palestinian Authority, which administers limited self-rule in the Palestinian territories under interim peace agreements.

Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev welcomed Trump’s aid comments, saying on Army Radio: “I am very satisfied ... [Trump] is saying the time has come to stop saying flattering words [to the Palestinians].”

However, Tzipi Livni, an Israeli opposition politician and a former peace negotiator, said “a responsible and serious [Israeli] government” should quietly tell Trump that it would be in Israel’s interest to prevent a “humanitarian crisis in Gaza” and to continue to fund Palestinian security forces cooperating with Israel.

Earlier on Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley disclosed plans to stop funding a UN agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees.

“The [US] 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 about US funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency.

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