The Palestinians rejected US President Donald Trump’s fresh threat to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in aid on Thursday, saying peace talks are “off the table” if the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital isn’t reversed.
Ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos, Trump said the US would no longer provide aid to the Palestinians if they refused to engage in US-brokered peace talks with Israel. He also said he’d taken Jerusalem “off the table” with his December 6 recognition of the city as Israel’s capital — a move that led the Palestinians to freeze ties with the US.
Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in response that the president’s latest remarks showed “the US has disqualified itself from playing a role in achieving peace” and that his Jerusalem decision was a “wake-up call” to Arab leaders.
“Jerusalem is not off the negotiations table, rather the US is outside the international consensus. Those who say that Jerusalem is off the table are saying that peace is off the table,” said Erekat. “There will be no peace without East Jerusalem being the sovereign capital of the State of Palestine.”
Erekat accused Trump of “blackmailing and punishing the Palestinian people for fighting and believing in their freedom and human rights per international law and UN resolutions.” He added that the US president “could buy many things with his money, but he won’t be able to buy the dignity of our nation.
“This is not a game for the people of Palestine. It is about our very existence that continues to be denied by Israel with full US support,” he said, adding that the Palestinians would continue to pursue statehood while Trump fuels “international anarchy.”
Trump also said Thursday that the Palestinians had “disrespected” the US by refusing to meet with his Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the region earlier this week. Palestinian Authority officials have refused to meet Trump administration officials since the Jerusalem decision.
“We give them hundreds of millions,” Trump said. “That money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”
The US suspended tens of millions of dollars in aid to the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees after Ramallah declared that Washington could not serve as a peace broker due to Trump’s December 6 decision.
Despite Trump’s threat Thursday to withhold further aid if the Palestinians don’t return to peace talks, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas said they would not meet with the US administration until it walked back its policy change on Jerusalem.
“If the American administration will not go back on their decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it will remain outside the (negotiation) table,” Nabil Abu Rudeina said.
Another senior Palestinian official, Hanan Ashrawi, told AFP, “Not meeting your oppressor is not a sign of disrespect; it is a sign of self-respect.”
The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel claims the entire city as its “united” capital.
Trump suggested Thursday that his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and setting in motion plans to move the US embassy there had settled one of the key issues in the conflict.
“The hardest subject they had to talk about was Jerusalem,” he said. “We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don’t have to talk about it anymore. They never got past Jerusalem. We took it off the table. We don’t have to talk about it anymore. You win one point and you’ll give up some other points later on in the negotiation — if it ever takes place. I don’t know that it ever will take place.”
He also put the blame on the Palestinians for the impasse in peace talks.
“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,” Trump said.
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