The US on Tuesday threatened it would cut aid to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency if Ramallah refused to come to the negotiating table for relaunched peace talks.
Following US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the US relinquished its traditional role as the mediator of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He has also refused to meet with American officials regarding the peace process, including US envoy Jason Greenblatt.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday at UN headquarters, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stressed the US remains committed to reaching a peace deal, and indicated it would cut off aid if the Palestinians refused to engage in peace negotiations.
Responding to a reporter’s question on whether the US will continue to provide funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to millions of Palestinian refugees, in light of a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution last month condemning the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Haley said Trump was prepared to cut aid to UNRWA if the Palestinians refuse to return to peace talks.
“I think the president has basically said that he doesn’t want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians are agreeing to come back to the negotiation table,” Haley said. “We’re trying to move for a peace process but if that doesn’t happen the president is not going to continue to fund that situation.”
“The Palestinians now have to show their will — they want to come to the table. As of now they are not coming to the table but they ask for aid. We’re not giving the aid,” added Haley. “We’re going to make sure they come to the table and we want to move forward with the peace process.”
The US was the biggest donor to UNRWA in 2016, giving $368,429,712. It is also the largest overall supplier of financial support for the Palestinians.
In her remarks, Haley also defended her veto last month of a Security Council resolution condemning Trump’s declaration, in which he also vowed to move the American embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
“I stood proudly even if I was the only hand in the Security Council to fight for the will of the people of the United States,” she said. “They wanted to see the embassy moved to Jerusalem and we followed through with that.”
The US was the only country in the 14 member body to vote against the measure, and exercised its veto. In the General Assembly, it passed by 128 votes to 9.
US officials have been insisting that they remain intent on seeking a peace treaty. When Greenblatt came to the region two weeks ago, even though he was shunned by Ramallah, the administration insisted the peace effort remained a priority.
“As we have said since the Jerusalem announcement, we anticipated reactions like the ones going on in the region but are going to remain hard at work on our peace plan,” a senior administration official told The Times of Israel at the time. “The president remains as committed to peace as ever,” the official added.