Unless the Palestinian Authority shows that it wants to make peace, the US will “not have anything to do with them any longer,” President Donald Trump said in Davos on Thursday.
“I can tell you, Israel does want to make peace, and they [the Palestinians] are going to have to want to make peace, too, or we aren’t going to have anything to do with them any longer,” Trump said, sitting next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum.
“This was not brought up by other negotiators, but it is brought up by me,” the American leader said.
Trump did not hide his anger toward the Palestinians for snubbing Vice President Mike Pence during his visit here this week, saying the US will withhold aid funds to them until they return to negotiations.
The Palestinians, he said, “disrespected us” by not “allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid support.”
That money, Trump said, will not go to the Palestinians “unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”
Time will tell what happens to the peace process, Trump said, “but respect has to be shown to the US, or we just are not going any further.”
PA PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas delivered a fiery, invective-filled speech slamming Trump and his administration earlier this month for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, cursing Trump with the words in Arabic “Yekhreb beitak,” which means, “May your house be destroyed,” a sarcastic expression that is the equivalent of “damn you” in English.
Asked by a reporter about Abbas’s remarks, Trump said he did not read them, and “I think I’m better off not seeing them.” He said that the US has done “a lot” for the Palestinians, “and hopefully they are going to make peace for their people.
“You know what,” Trump added, “it’s many years of killing people, it’s many years of killing each other. They have to be tired and disgusted of it.
“So let’s see what happens. I hope sound minds are going to prevail.”
Trump said that his decision regarding Jerusalem has taken it off the table, and that previous negotiators have never gotten beyond that issue.
“You won one point,” he told Netanyahu, regarding Jerusalem, “and you’ll give up some points later in the negotiations, if it ever takes place.”
This stands in contrast with what Trump said in December, when announcing the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “We are not taking a position of any final-status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders,” he said at the time. “Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
Trump on Thursday said that the US has a peace proposal, which he characterized as “a great proposal for the Palestinians” and a “very good proposal for Israel.”
He dismissed critics who hold that his Jerusalem decision set back peace, saying that he enhanced the chances of peace by taking the toughest issue off the table.
Israel, Trump said, “will pay” for the Jerusalem move, though he gave no indication of what he has in mind.
“Look, Israel, something is going to happen. They’ll do something that’s going to be a very good thing” he said.
Trump said he was not sure if negotiations will begin again.
“They [the Palestinians] have to respect the process also, and they have to respect the fact the US has given tremendous support to them over the years, in terms of monetary support and other support. We give them hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Why should we do that as a country if they are doing nothing for us?” Trump said that the US-Israel relationship has never been stronger, and that he and Netanyahu are close personal friends.
The US Embassy’s move to Jerusalem, he said, “is way ahead of schedule by years,” and “we anticipate having a small version of it open there some time next year.”
Netanyahu, meeting Trump for the fourth time in a year but for the first time since the Jerusalem declaration, told Trump this decision “will be forever etched in the hearts of our people for generations to come.”
Netanyahu also thanked Trump for his “remarkable” and “rock-solid support” at the UN. This is a place, it’s a house of slander against Israel and against the United States. And by word and deed, you have told them, ‘enough is enough.’” The prime minister also told Trump that Israel “completely” supports his “stalwart position on the Iran nuclear deal.”
A RESPONSE TO Trump was posted on the Palestine TV Facebook page, “If the issue of Jerusalem remains off the table, America will remain away from the table.”
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Trump’s statement “only reaffirms that the US has disqualified itself from playing a role in achieving peace. His comments on Jerusalem should serve as a wake-up call for Arab leaders and decision-makers, as well as to the rest of the world.
“Jerusalem is not off the negotiations table, rather the US is outside the international consensus. Those who say that Jerusalem is off the table are saying that peace is off the table,” Erekat said. “The holy city is in the hearts of each and every Palestinian, Arab, Christian and Muslim, and there will be no peace without east Jerusalem being the sovereign capital of the State of Palestine.”
Trump may be able to “buy many things with his money, but he won’t be able to buy the dignity of our nation,” he said.
The Palestinians will “continue to use all available political, diplomatic and legal venues in order to achieve the long overdue rights of the Palestinian people, most importantly our right to self-determination,” Erekat said.
Following his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu was interviewed by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on the main stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and said the Palestinians – who he said have been “pampered” by the international community – “have to stop kvetching” and return to negotiations.
“If you want to have peace, you have to negotiate peace, you can’t negotiate peace if they refuse to negotiate, and it is a fact that Abbas simply does not want to negotiate, he runs away,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister ripped into the Iranian nuclear deal, saying it is “so deeply flawed that it guarantees that Iran will have the opportunity to make nuclear weapons.”
Regarding the statements by European leaders that they intend to keep the nuclear agreement as is, despite Trump’s demand to fix it, Netanyahu said that the fact that they “signed a bad deal doesn’t meant they have to keep a bad deal; in history you’ve had instances of nations who have signed very bad deals living – if they’ve managed to live – to regret it.”
Iran – specifically its involvement in Syria – will be the focus of attention when Netanyahu travels to Moscow on Monday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders last met in Sochi in August, and are in constant phone contact.
Netanyahu traveled to Davos on Wednesday, just four days after returning from India. In addition to going to Moscow next week, he is scheduled to attend the Munich Security Conference in mid-February, and to go to Washington to meet with Trump again and attend the annual AIPAC policy conference in the beginning of March.Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.