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Trump blasts Palestinians: make peace or say goodbye to aid

President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, in Davos.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Trump's UN envoy Nikki Haley also took a swipe at the Palestinian president, saying he lacked courage

US President Donald Trump on Thursday delivered one of the most scathing criticisms of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to ever emanate from the White House, saying they should be disgusted by "many years of killing people" and ordering them to make peace or he will sever the flow of financial aid.

"They have to want to make peace or we’re not going to have anything to do with [aid] any longer," Trump said ahead of a meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

He said that the US has given the Palestinians a "tremendous" amount of aid but that the PA "disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them," in a reference to the Palestinian boycott of Vice President Mike Pence's official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"Why should we do that as a country if they do nothing for us?" he later asked. "Respect has to be shown to the US or we’re not going any further."

Trump also described his December speech recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as taking Jerusalem "off the table" as a negotiating issue between Israelis and Palestinians, although he immediately added that "I don’t know that [negotiations] will ever take place."

This is likely to be interpreted by Palestinians as an outright rejection of their claim on the eastern part of the city as the capital of their hoped-for state.

"We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don’t have to talk about it any more," he said, seated next to Netanyahu, who occasionally flashed a smile.

THOMAS COEX (AFP/File)

After almost twelve months of talks with Israelis and Palestinians by his personal peace envoys Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, Trump said "yes we have a proposal for peace, it's a great proposal for Palestinians. I think it's very good for Israel."

He also hinted at a compromise that Israel has said it is ready to make.

"Israel, something’s going to happen. They’ll do something that’s a very good thing. They want to make peace," he said without elaboration.

When asked what he thought of a recent speech by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Trump replied that "I didn’t really read his remarks I’m probably better off not seeing them," before opining that "It’s many years of killing people, many years of killing each other, they must be tired and disgusted over it."

Palestinian leaders, including a spokesman for Abbas, later responded to Trump's remarks by saying they would not bow to an "oppressor" and that his comments only reinforced their view that the US is no longer an honest peace broker. 

Netanyahu's model

Following his meeting with Trump, Israeli premier Netanyahu sat down at the Alpine resort for an on-stage discussion with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, where he laid out his vision for Palestinian self-rule. 

While never mentioning the word "state", he said "I don’t have a problem with Palestinian self-rule" and that they can have "their own parliament, their own flag, their own embassies."

However, he said, Israel would always maintain full military control over the West Bank and Gaza in order to ensure those territories are not infiltrated by Islamic State or Iran, calling his plan "a realistic model for an enduring peace."

Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Prominent members of his own Likud party as well as right-wing junior coalition parties are in favor of annexing parts or all of the West Bank to Israel, however Netanyahu said that "I don't want to annex the Palestinians as citizens of Israel and I don't want them as our subjects". 

The Palestinians see the only acceptable outcome of peace negotiations to be the establishment of a state of their own based on 1967 borders, the year Israel wrested the West Bank and Gaza from Jordanian and Egyptian occupation respectively. 

Despite the gaping chasm between Trump and the Palestinians, Netanyahu said his US counterpart's approach was "refreshing" and struck a positive tune about the prospects for peace and said there was no alternative to the US as facilitator. 

At UN, Haley takes swipe at Abbas

Just moments after Trump's spray against the Palestinians, his envoy to the United Nations also lambasted PA President Abbas, accusing him of lacking the courage necessary to make peace with Israel. 

The United States remains "deeply committed" to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Haley said, "but we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace."

"To get historic results, we need courageous leaders," she said.

The US ambassador, who has strongly defended Israel at the United Nations, said Abbas had "insulted" Trump and called for suspending recognition of Israel after the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Addressing the council, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the search for peace had been Abbas' "life's work" and suggested attacks on the Palestinian leader were a form of "demonization."

Jewel SAMAD (AFP/File)

Mansour said the Palestinian rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem "is not intended as 'disrespect'" but rather a "position rooted in full respect for the law, for the principles of justice and equity."

The Security Council was meeting to discuss Israeli-Palestinian tensions for the first time since the General Assembly voted 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, to reject the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The US move broke with decades of international consensus that the city's status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The meeting also followed a US decision to freeze more than $100 million in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) that has been criticized by European governments.

Correction: A previous version of this story quoted Trump as saying "They have to want to make peace or we’re not going to have anything to do with them any longer", the corrected quote is in the second paragraph.

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end all aid to the pa and any until agencies specifically for palis only

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