DAVOS, Switzerland —
In unscripted remarks to the press on Thursday, US President Donald Trump said the US would no longer transfer monetary aid to the Palestinians unless they entered peace negotiations with Israel, and excoriated the Palestinian leadership’s reaction to his decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“That money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace, 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 it any longer,” he said.
Sitting alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their bilateral meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump called Palestinian Authority officials’ unwillingness to meet with members of his administration — including US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to the region last week — “disrespectful.”
“If you look back at the various peace proposals, and they are endless, and I spoke to some of the people involved. And I said, ‘Did you ever talk about the vast amount of funds, money that we give to the Palestinians? You know, we give hundreds of millions of dollars.’ And they said, ‘We never talk about it,’” Trump said. “Well, we do talk about it. 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.”
Netanyahu, for his part, called Trump’s Jerusalem recognition a “historic decision.” Despite the crisis it has spurred with the Palestinians and much of the broader Arab world, he said it would advance the prospects for an agreement.
“People say that this pushes peace backward,” Netanyahu said. “I say it pushes peace forward, because it recognizes history, it recognizes the present reality. And peace can only be built on the basis of truth.”
Meanwhile, the president suggested that his December 6 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and setting in motion plans to move the US embassy there had settled one of the key issues in the conflict.
“The hardest subject they had to talk about was Jerusalem,” he said. “We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don’t have to talk about it anymore. They never got past Jerusalem. We took it off the table. We don’t have to talk about it anymore.” He then turned to Netanyahu and said: You won one point, and you’ll give up some other points later on in the negotiation — if it ever takes place. I don’t know that it ever will take place.”
Asked by The Times of Israel whether Jerusalem being “off the table” meant no part of the city would be part of a future Palestinian state, Trump responded, “Next question.”