Donald Trump has appeared to threaten to cut off US aid money to the Palestinian Authority, asking why Washington should make “any of these massive future payments” when Palestinians are “no longer willing to talk peace”.
The US president, in a pair of tweets, said “we pay the 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,” he wrote.
He infuriated Palestinians and Muslims across the Middle East when he announced late last year that the US would consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move its embassy there, upending decades of US policy and igniting protests.
While the Palestinians have not closed the door to a potential deal with Israel,Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the announcement had destroyed Trump’s credibility as a Middle East peace broker, calling the decision “a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process”.
Senior Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement that Trump had “single-handedly destroyed the very foundations of peace” with his Jerusalem declaration.
Tuesday’s tweets were a tacit admission by Trump that his decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has thrown a spanner into his administration’s plans to restart the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, which he had dubbed “the ultimate deal”.
He tasked son-in-law Jared Kushner with restarting the effort, and brought his former lawyer Jason Greenblatt into the White House to lead the negotiations.
Trump’s Middle East peace team held meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders for nearly a year ahead of an expected peace proposal.
But by recognising Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, he was seen by the Palestinians as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict.
The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem – which Israel captured in 1967 – for their capital.
Trump said his decision merely recognised the reality that Jerusalem already serves as Israel’s capital and was not meant to prejudge the final borders of the city.
In his tweets, he argued his decision had taken “Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more”.
Responding to Donald Trump, Israeli-British magician and entertainer Uri Geller wrote: “My intuition: the Trump administration will start finding some connection to individuals who had easier access to very sensitive top secret positions during the Obama rule, target: damage US security and to push extremist ideology and I am not talking about the Russians.”
In the days after the decision, Trump administration officials said the strategy was based on the notion that Israel had lost faith in the US as a committed partner during the Obama administration.
With trust in Washington restored, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government would be more inclined to make tough concessions that would ultimately be needed for a peace deal, US officials argued, and Israeli officials quietly indicated they could do so.
No one spelled out, however, what the Palestinians would receive in return.
Trump on Tuesday also issued a threat to cut off foreign aid dollars to an unspecified list of countries that do not reciprocate.
“It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others,” he wrote, appearing to reference a January 1 tweet attacking Pakistan for failing to do enough to combat terror groups while taking US aid.