US President Donald Trump delivers remarks about the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Over 30 Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill have sent a letter to US President Donald Trump expressing “concern” over his slew of cuts to Palestinian interests.
The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, warns that Trump’s apparent strategy of pressuring the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table with Israel may prove to be counterproductive.
“We are deeply concerned that your strategy of attempting to force the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table by withholding humanitarian assistance from women and children is misguided and destined to backfire,” the Democrats wrote. “Your proposed cuts would undermine those who seek a peaceful resolution and strengthen the hands of Hamas and other extremists in the Gaza Strip, as the humanitarian crisis there worsens.”
On a high holy days telephone call with Jewish leaders last week, Trump hinted at a pressure campaign on the PA designed to jump start the moribund peace process.
“I’d say, you’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal. If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying,” Trump said.
Nikki Haley, ambassador to the UN, who has consulted closely with the Mideast peace team, also said Palestinian rhetoric critical of the president contributed to the aid cuts. “Our job is not to take the beatings that you give us, saying we’re not kind to Palestinians and then turn around pay for them,” the envoy said last month.
Over the course of a few short weeks, the administration has slashed aid to UNRWA, east Jerusalem hospitals, Palestinian-Israeli cooperation programs and direct assistance to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It also shuttered the PLO’s offices in Washington, and revoked visas for its top envoy and his family.
Palestinian officials insist that any pressure campaign will fail. They have dismissed Trump
as a biased arbiter of peace ever since he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year, and moved the US embassy there from Tel Aviv in May.
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Trump’s top aides are preparing a peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians that is said to include detailed proposals for a comprehensive settlement to the conflict.
While they have not seen the plan, Palestinian leaders have already cast the plan aside as “dead on arrival,” and warn that Trump’s peace team is attempting to change the “terms of reference” upon which negotiations would be based.
US officials responded to this criticism by cautioning all parties to wait to see their plan before judging it.
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