White House rebuffs report Trump offered Abbas $5 billion for talks
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White House rebuffs report Trump offered Abbas $5 billion for talks

Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt decries Globes story as a ‘myth’ and ‘absurd idea’

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas listens while US President Donald Trump makes a statement for the press before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas listens while US President Donald Trump makes a statement for the press before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

WASHINGTON — The White House flatly denied on Thursday a report that said US President Donald Trump had offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas $5 billion to enter peace negotiations.

Hours earlier, the Israeli business publication Globes reported that Trump sought to re-engage the Palestinian leader after cutting American aid to the Palestinians with the $5 billion offer.

The US has recently cut funding for the PA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and the East Jerusalem hospital network.

The president’s special envoy to Middle East peace, Jason Greenblatt, promptly rebutted the article, calling it a “myth” on Twitter.

“When the peace plan is released, if the PA is serious about peace & wants to improve Palestinian lives, the PA should want to review the plan & engage,” he said. “It is an absurd idea to pay $5b for a party to ‘return to the negotiating table.’ How would that accomplish peace??”

The Globes report said that State Department officials convinced Greenblatt and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — both of whom are tasked with brokering a peace deal — to give Abbas a carrot to break out of the current stalemate in negotiations.
The report cited “US diplomatic sources.”

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has inflicted steep funding cuts to several entities that serve Palestinians.

US officials have eliminated their aid entirely to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, the UN agency responsibly for Palestinian Refugees, and cut $25 million in aid to East Jerusalem hospitals.

The State Department has said those reductions are because the Palestinian Authority refuses to engage with the administration and enter peace talks with Israel.

In a call with Jewish leaders ahead of Rosh Hashanah, Trump said the Palestinians would have to agree to a deal with Israel before funding would be reinstated.

“You’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying,” Trump said in the call.

A Palestine Liberation Organization official called the cuts “an act of political blackmail goes against the norms of human decency and morality.”

“Politics should not trump humanity or harm a vulnerable people in need of support and protection,” PLO executive committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

The administration also ordered closed the Palestine Liberation Office’s Washington office this week, citing the Palestinians’ refusal to work with Trump’s team.

Since Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year, the Palestinians have rejected any efforts from Washington to revive the peace process, saying the administration has relinquished its capacity to act as an honest mediator.

Recent events come as Greenblatt and Kushner prepare to unveil their long-awaited peace plan. They have given no timetable for its publication.

On Wednesday, Greenblatt cautioned against believing media reports on the plan and its contents.

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