Palestinian leaders have said that they will not be “blackmailed” after US President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid worth more than $300 million annually, his latest provocative move that could upturn years of careful diplomacy.
Relations between Trump’s White House and the Palestinians were already tense after the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month. The December 6 announcement concerning the disputed city led Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to say the US could no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process.
Trump’s threat in a tweet to try to force the Palestinians into negotiations led to further outrage, though Israeli ministers lauded the move. The Palestinians rely heavily on international aid, with many analysts, including Israelis, saying such assistance helps maintain stability in a volatile region.
“We pay the Palestinians hundred of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect,” Trump tweeted.
“With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
It was not immediately clear whether Trump was threatening all of the budget, worth $319 million in 2016. The US has long provided the Palestinian Authority with much-needed budgetary support and security assistance, as well as an additional $304 million for UN programmes in the West Bank and Gaza.