US President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to withhold aid to the Palestinian Authority if they did not pursue peace with Israel, saying they had snubbed the United States by not meeting Vice President Mike Pence during a recent visit.
Trump, speaking after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland said he aimed for peace in the Middle East.
Palestinian Authority shunned Pence’s visit to the region this month after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and vowed to begin moving the U.S. embassy to the city, whose status is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian Authority conflict.
Trump’s historical declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel drew condemnation from Arab leaders and anti-Semites around the world. It also broke with decades of U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We have discussions going with Israel on many things including trade,” Trump said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “But the big move, and something that is very historic and very important is the fact that we’re moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” added Trump. “It’s way ahead of schedule, by years.”
“We anticipate a small version [of the embassy] working sometime next year,” Trump continued.
“When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands — that money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” Trump said.
Washington had already said it would withhold about half the initial aid it planned to give a U.N. agency that serves the Palestinian ‘refugees’.
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has called Trump’s Jerusalem declaration a “slap in the face” and has rejected Washington as an honest broker in any future talks with Israel. Abbas left for an overseas visit before Pence arrived.
Israel’s government regards Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the country. The PA see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future imaginary Palestinian state.
Trump said the PA had to come to the negotiating table.
“Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace and they’re going to have to want to make peace too or we’re going to have nothing to do with them any longer,” Trump said.