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Did Trump Just Say A united Jerusalem will be retained by Israel and Also Threaten to Cut Aid to Palestinians ?

by Rhonda Spivak, January 3, 2018

 

 

On January 2, 2018  President Donald Trump threaten cutting off  aid to the Palestinians unless they come back to peace negotiations, and  at the same time appeared to say that Jerusalem is not up for negotiation as Israel will retain all of Jerusalem, thereby negating East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital.

 

When Trump first made his declaration  recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital last month, he  was careful to stipulate that 

the recognition would not impact the final status of Jerusalem in peace negotiations, thereby appearing to leave open the possibility that East Jerusalem could be a capital for a Palestinian state. But he has recently just said that  "we have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table," which would appear to mean that Israel will retain both East and West Jerusalem, and a Palestinian capital will have to be elsewhere (ie Abu Dis or Ramallah)
"We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel," Trump tweeted. "We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more [emphasis added]. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"
So far, the White House has not commented to anyone on the apparent contradiction, but Trump's remarks certainly require clarification. It's interesting as well that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not directly commented on Trump's apparent contradiction, nor has Jordan or Egypt or Saudi Arabia (These Arab states haven't spoken up on behalf of their Palestinian brethren yet). 
It remains to be seen whether Trump's shaking things up so to speak will result in Palestinians returning to the negotiating table, or whether Trump will actually make good on his threat of  cutting off aid. It's possible, that he may decide to do nothing or reduce it, but not cut it altogether. We are in unchartered territory, but I will not be at all surprised if US aid to Palestinians is reduced  (According to the  US Agency for International Development, the  US spent $616 million on aid to the Palestinian territories in 2016,  which includes humanitarian assistance, private sector debt payments and infrastructure. (http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/02/politics/trump-palestinian-aid/index.html) .

 Ralph Ahren in the Times of Israel has written, "At this point it appears more likely, however, that US officials will somehow try to downplay the president’s surprising tweets, indicating support for the status quo and vowing that the White House will continue unabated in its efforts to bring about a lasting peace.

 

"Still, Trump’s tweets do provide fascinating insights into how he views international relations and the application of his “America First” foreign policy in the Middle East. It’s all quid pro quo, a system of bilateral transactions in which the strongest player dominates weaker ones. Call it diplomatic Darwinism." (https://www.timesofisrael.com/trumps-mideast-policy-diplomatic-darwinism-in-the-quest-for-the-ultimate-deal/)

 Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina is quoted in Business Day as having said on Jan 3 that "We are not against going back to negotiations, but [these should be] based on international laws and resolutions that have recognised an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital," Abu Rudeina added (https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/world/2018-01-03-jerusalem-not-for-sale-palestinian-president-tells-donald-trump/)
One Palestinian official told the Guardian that "His [Trump's] mistake is that he thinks this is one of the deals he is familiar with. But the Palestinians are not a weak company to be taken over. He is ignoring the issue of dignity, which people are prepared to die for."(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/03/donald-trump-moves-step-closer-destruction-middle-east-peace-process
According to ABC News,"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.(http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-03/palestinians-condemn-trump-aid-halt-threat/9302418)."
 Some have suggested that slashing Palestinian aid could lead to the collapse of PA 's security cooperation with Israel and could result in the collapse of the PA itself, which will result in Hamas gaining control of the West Bank. On the other hand, Trump may be telling the PA if it isn't more accomodating , he doesn't care if it collapses.

Not long before Trump took to Twitter, his ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned the Palestinians that the US would stop funding the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA)  as long as the Palestinian Authority refused to negotiate with Israel. (It should be noted that the US is the largest single donor to UNWRA but in the last couple of years the  US has been reducing its donation. It pledged $355 million in 2016, down from $380 million in 2015, down from $408 million in 2014). Some believe if the US were to dramatically cut funding to UNRWA, the Saudis would step up to fund it more.

 

Also on January 2  the day Trump was tweeting, the Knesset approved an amendment that requires that that any attempt to transfer sovereign control of Jerusalem to a foreign entity needs to be approved by a supermajority of 80 Knesset members out of 120, rather than a simple majority of 61 members. However, the substantive effect of this amendment is very limited since the amendment itself can be cancelled or changed with only 61 votes. This means  that any Israeli governing coalition can change the  law, given 61 is the minimum number of seats for a coalition.

Finally, the monthly Peace Index of the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University found that 65% of Jewish Israelis believe Trump’s December announcement regarding Jerusalem being Israel's capital was in Israel’s best interest, while two-thirds of Arab-Israeli respondents think it was not.
 
 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.