President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to cut American financial aid to Palestinian entities, an escalatory step following his decision last month to move his country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
In a series of tweets, Trump expressed his dismay at the way certain countries were utilising American aid. Citing Palestine as one such example, he referenced the lack of “appreciation and respect” the United States receives from Palestinians despite America’s extensive financial support.
He also reflected on what he described as Palestinian unwillingness to continue peace talks following Trump’s controversial move to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. He revealed that this decision would mean that Israel would presumably have to “pay more”, an initiative that he saw as taking “the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table.”
Trump’s tweets were not the first time threats to cut aid to Palestine have been waved, as it became a recurrent theme in the US approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Following Trump’s decision—which sparked waves of anger worldwide—US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stated that the US would be noting the names of those who voted against the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital at the UN General Assembly. Trump then reaffirmed this stance, suggesting that the US would be “watching those votes” and that they would be saving a lot of money as a consequence.
This followed the substantial lack of support within the international community as theyit dashed the very motion of recognising Jerusalem at the UN. The General Assembly vote ended up as 128 to nine, an overwhelming rejection of the American move. The substantial number of abstentions, 35 nations, has been speculated to be a result of the American threats to cut financial support.
In response to Trump’s most recent declaration, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), released a statement on Wednesday proclaiming that “we [the Palestinians] will not be blackmailed” and accused Trump of threatening the very foundations of any peace initiative.
However, cuts to Palestinian aid have not yet been enacted, with a spokesperson for the UNRWA stating that the agency had received no notification of a change in policy. It remains to be seen whether these threats are merely attempts to intimidate or whether they will materialise.
American aid to the Palestinian Authority, according to the US Agency for International Development, was estimated at $616m in 2016. The funds are comprised of governmental and administrative assistance, debt repayments, human security initiatives, and infrastructural projects, among other purposes.
In September 2016, Republicans in the US Senate had attempted to introduce legislation to withhold aid to Palestine, pending approval from the US secretary of state, in a bid to prevent the funding of terrorists.