US President Donald Trump’s tweets threatening to cut aid to the Palestinians have “absolutely no justification,” a senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday.
Late Tuesday evening, Trump tweeted: “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them,” referring to the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid payments the US makes for the benefit of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“This statement has absolutely no justification,” Nabil Sha’ath, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s international affairs adviser, told The Jerusalem Post in a phone call. “We wanted a peace process with the Americans, and we worked hard for it. We gave Trump all the attention and time. We went to the White House to see him and welcomed him here in Bethlehem.
“But then he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, taking the single most important part of negotiations and a twostate solution off the table. So he wants to punish us for protesting and not accepting his position on Jerusalem.... This [tweet] shows that Trump is not a serious man.”
Palestinian leader Abbas says Trump's 'crime' over Jerusalem precludes US peace role (Reuters)
On December 6, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated a process to relocate the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to the Holy City, breaking with decades of American policy.
After Trump announced his decisions on Jerusalem, Abbas declared that the US no longer can play the role of interlocutor in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Sha’ath added that Trump is mistaken to say the Palestinians no longer want a peace process.
“We have not given up on peace,” he said. “But we are simply looking for other partners to go to an international peace process. We still are working hard for a peace process, but not one monopolized by Mr. Trump.”
Sha’ath, along with PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani, traveled to Russia and China earlier this month to explore the possibility of bringing more countries into the peace process.
Israel has long accepted only the US as an interlocutor in the peace process, turning down initiatives to bring other parties into it.
When asked how the Palestinians would deal with a possible cut in aid from the US, Sha’ath said: “This would make things more difficult,” adding that the Palestinians will formulate a response at the upcoming meeting of the Palestinian Central Council.
The PCC, the PLO’s second- highest decision-making body, is slated to meet on January 14 in Ramallah.
According to PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yousif, the meeting will aim “to set forth a strategy for the coming period, in light of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also blasted Trump for his tweets, saying that cutting aid to the Palestinians would put young Palestinian refugees’ lives in peril.
“He is threatening to starve Palestinian children in refugee camps and deny their natural rights to health and education, if we don’t endorse his terms and dictations,” he said.
As a part of its aid to the Palestinians, the US usually allots more than $360 million annually to the United Nations Relief Work Agency in the West Bank, Gaza and other places in the Middle East, which provides health, education, social welfare and other services to Palestinian refugees.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness on Wednesday said his organization has no information about any changes to US contributions to UNRWA.