WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump remains dedicated to brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, but he won’t “tolerate falsehoods being spread about America” and its positions, a senior White House official told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.
The official was responding to the president’s tweet on Tuesday threatening to cut US aid from the Palestinian Authority if it does not enter negotiations with Israel.
“The President is a master dealmaker and is as committed to trying to achieve the ultimate peace deal, as ever, but he will not tolerate falsehoods being spread about America and our positions—and he certainly will not spend taxpayer dollars to subsidize those who spread them,” the official said in an email.
It was not immediately clear what specific “falsehoods” were being referred to and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.
Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month, triggering an angry reaction from Palestinians and the broader Arab world.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas responded by saying the US could no longer play its traditional role as a mediator in the conflict, and Palestinian officials refused to meet with Trump’s special peace envoy Jason Greenblatt when he visited the region in December. They now say they won’t meet with Vice President Mike Pence, who is due later this month.
Trump had tasked son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner with restarting the effort, and brought his former attorney, Greenblatt, into the White House to lead the negotiations.
Their Mideast peace team had held meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders for nearly a year ahead of an expected peace proposal.
The White House official emphasized on Wednesday that despite recent developments, they still plan on pushing forward with that quest.
“In the meantime, we remain hard at work on our comprehensive peace plan, which will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians and will be unveiled when it is ready and the time is right,” the official said.
However, Trump’s Tuesday night tweet appeared to be a tacit admission that his Jerusalem recognition and decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem had stalled the plans to renew the peace process.
…peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
He dismissed Palestinian fury over his Jerusalem recognition and said that he planned for Israel “to pay” in future negotiations for his declaration.
But Palestinian unwillingness to enter talks, he said, was preventing any progress.
“They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel,” he said. “We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.”
“But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace,” he went on, “why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
The United States currently gives the PA over $300 million in annual aid.
President Trump has, in the past, voiced support in principle for legislation that would substantially cut US aid to the PA if it continues its practice of paying the families of terrorists who kill Israelis. The White House has not yet taken a firm position on that bill — called the Taylor Force Act — and said it would monitor the measure as it works its way through Congress.
Earlier on Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, for her part, threatened to cut off funding to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, if the Palestinians refused to engage in peace negotiations.