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January 25, 2018 11:07 am

At Sit-Down With Israeli PM Netanyahu, Trump Threatens to Pull US Aid to Palestinians if They Don’t Pursue Peace

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US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 25, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Carlos Barria.

US.President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to withhold aid to the Palestinians 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 to the Middle East.

Trump — speaking after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland — said he aimed for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Palestinians shunned Pence’s visit to the region this month after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and vowed to begin moving the US embassy to the city.

“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 UN agency that serves the Palestinians.

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the US had taken itself “off the table” as a peace mediator since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Palestinian rights are not up to any bargain and Jerusalem is not for sale. The United States can’t have any role unless it retreats its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters by phone from Jordan.

Abbas has called Trump’s Jerusalem declaration a “slap in the face” and has rejected the US as an honest broker in any future talks with Israel. Abbas left for an overseas visit before Pence arrived.

Speaking in Davos on Thursday, Netanyahu said only the US could broker a peace deal.

“I think there’s no substitute for the United States,” Netanyahu stated. “As the honest broker, as a facilitator, there’s no other international body that would do it.”

Trump said on Palestinians 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.

Trump said his administration had a peace proposal in the works that was a “great proposal for Palestinians” which covers “a lot of the things that were over the years discussed or agreed on,” without providing specifics.

Trump said that his declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital took it off the negotiating table “and Israel will pay for that,” adding “they’ll do something that will be a very good thing,” without elaborating.

Earlier at the World Economic Forum, Jordanian King Abdullah said Jerusalem had to be part of a comprehensive solution.

He said Trump’s decision had created a backlash, frustrating Palestinians who felt there was no fair mediator.

But he added: “I’d like to reserve judgment because we’re still waiting for the Americans to come out with their plan.”

King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, making Jordan particularly sensitive to any changes of status there.

At the United Nations on Thursday, US Ambassador to the UNNikki Haley also criticized the Palestinians, describing a recent speech by Abbas as indulging “in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories.”

Watch a video of the Trump-Netanyahu meeting below:

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