'We will not be blackmailed': Palestinians condemn Donald Trump tweet threatening to withdraw aid

'We will not be blackmailed': Palestinians condemn Donald Trump tweet threatening to withdraw aid

'We will not be blackmailed': Palestinians condemn Donald Trump tweet threatening to withdraw aid

Updated 4 January 2018, 0:15 AEDT

Palestinians have lashed out at US President Donald Trump's threat to withdraw aid, saying "Jerusalem is not for sale, neither for gold nor for silver".

Palestinians have condemned a tweet by Donald Trump as blackmail, after the US President threatened to withhold future aid payments over what he calls the Palestinians' unwillingness to talk peace with Israel.

Key points:

  • The US spends around $400 million on economic support for Palestine annually
  • Palestinians lash out, saying "Jerusalem is not for sale, neither for gold nor for silver"
  • Mr Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital last month

The tweet drew praise from a cabinet minister of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government, but a former Israeli peace negotiator warned of the dangers in cutting off financial assistance to the Palestinians.

In the two-part tweet yesterday, Mr Trump said "Washington gives Palestinians hundreds of millions a year and get no appreciation or respect".

Mr Trump went on to question future US foreign aid payments to Palestine.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee, said in response, "we will not be blackmailed".

Palestinian anger at Mr Trump was already high over his December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a declaration that also generated outrage across the Arab world and concern among Washington's Western allies.

Commenting on Mr Trump's tweets, Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said, "Jerusalem is not for sale, neither for gold nor for silver."

Mr Abu Rdainah said the Palestinians were not opposed to returning to peace talks that collapsed in 2014, but only on the basis of establishing a state of their own along the lines of that which existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war.

"If the United States is keen about peace and about its interests it must abide by that," he said.

Israel, which withdrew troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, has called the pre-1967 West Bank boundaries indefensible and has pledged to hold on to all of Jerusalem forever.

$400 million in US funding

A report prepared for the US Congress in December 2016 by the US Congressional Research Service said annual US economic support to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged around $400 million since fiscal 2008.

Much of the money has gone toward US Agency for International Development-administered project assistance and the rest toward budget support for the Palestinian Authority, which administers limited self-rule in the Palestinian territories under interim peace agreements.

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev, a member of Mr Netanyahu's Likud party, welcomed Mr Trump's aid comments, saying on Army Radio, "I am very satisfied … (Mr Trump) is saying the time has come to stop saying flattering words (to the Palestinians)."

But Tzipi Livni, an Israeli opposition politician and a former peace negotiator, said "a responsible and serious (Israeli) government" should quietly tell Mr Trump that it would be in Israel's interest to prevent a "humanitarian crisis in Gaza" and to continue to fund Palestinian security forces cooperating with Israel.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Trump's UN ambassador disclosed plans to stop funding a United Nations agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees.

"The President has basically said he doesn't want to give any additional funding, or stop funding, until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table," Nikki Haley told reporters when asked about future US funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees.

In an emailed statement, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness said, "UNRWA has not been informed by the United States administration of any changes in US funding to the Agency".

The United States is the largest donor to the agency, with a pledge of nearly $370 million as of 2016, according to UNRWA's website.

There are 5.9 million UNRWA refugees and other registered persons eligible for its services, which include education and health care, in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, the website said.

Reuters