WEF 2018: No Palestinian aide until they return to peace talks, says Donald Trump

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Davos | Published: January 25, 2018 11:29:54 PM

US President Donald Trump threatened to withhold aid money from the Palestinians until they return to peace talks with Israel as he sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

WEF 2018, davos summit, Donald Trump, Palestinian aide, peace talks, trump threatens palestineUS President Donald Trump threatened to withhold aid money from the Palestinians until they return to peace talks with Israel as he sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

US President Donald Trump threatened to withhold aid money from the Palestinians until they return to peace talks with Israel as he sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Trump’s decision last year to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital roiled Arab nations and led Palestinians to withdraw from negotiations on the grounds the U.S. can no longer be trusted as an honest broker in the quest for peace. Trump said that decision has consequences. The U.S., he said, gives “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the Palestinians, and “that money is on the table and that money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.” Trump’s comment came shortly after he arrived at an economic forum that brings together world leaders, business executives and celebrities. His appearance is aimed at luring foreign investment to the US and highlighting his “America first” economic agenda, despite its seeming odds with a forum that celebrates global cooperation and free trade.

It wasn’t immediately clear what money Trump was referring to in his threat. Washington has contributed over USD 5 billion in economic and security aid to the Palestinians since the mid-1990s. Annual economic aid since 2008 has averaged around USD 400 million, much of it devoted to development projects. Last week, the Trump administration moved to withhold some – but not all – of a scheduled aid payment to the United Nations agency that assists Palestinian refugees. The Trump administration said it would provide USD 60 million, while keeping USD 65 million until the UN body undertakes a “fundamental re-examination.” Israel has been overjoyed by Trump’s pivot on Jerusalem, which Netanyahu hailed today as an “historic decision that will be forever etched in the hearts of our people.” On a visit to Israel this week, Vice President Mike Pence told Israeli lawmakers that the US was fast-tracking the embassy plans, aiming to move it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019. Trump said he anticipates having “a small version” of the embassy open sometime next year.

During his remarks, Trump referenced Pence’s trip to the Middle East, which did not include a meeting with Palestinian leaders. Trump said, “they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them,” adding: “Respect has to be shown to the US or we’re just not going any further.” Trump arrived in Zurich ahead of schedule and immediately boarded a US helicopter for the flight to Davos, where the World Economic Forum is being held. The approximately 40-minute trip took Trump over a snowy countryside dotted with houses, frosted mountains and a glistening lake. As Trump got off the helicopter in Davos, he gestured to aides who held him by the arms as he walked across the snowy landing zone to his waiting car. “We’re very happy to be here,” Trump said as he arrived. “The United States is doing very well, and will continue to do well and this will be a very exciting two days.” He said he was bringing a message of “peace and prosperity” to the gathering. While the president is expected to declare that the US is open for business, the protectionist-leaning president’s attendance at the annual gathering for free-trade-loving political and business elites has raised eyebrows. His decision to sign new tariffs boosting American manufacturers this week has prompted fresh concerns about his nationalist tendencies. “I’m going to Davos right now to get people to invest in the United States,” Trump said yesterday before the overnight flight to Europe. “I’m going to say: ‘Come into the United States. You have plenty of money.’ But I don’t think I have to go, because they’re coming, they’re coming at a very fast clip.” Trump also seemed eager to dispel concerns about his global leadership.

During an earlier meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump insisted their relationship isn’t strained and that the US and UK “are very much joined at the hip.” “We’re on the same wavelength in I think every respect,” Trump said, insisting the two leaders have a “really great relationship, although some people don’t necessarily believe that.” “We are very much joined at the hip when it comes to the military. We have the same ideas, the same ideals, and there’s nothing that would happen to you that we won’t be there to fight for you,” he told May. “You know that.” Trump hosted May at the White House days after he took office. But he recently canceled a planned trip to London to celebrate the opening of the new US embassy. And last year, Trump and May traded criticism over his retweets of a far-right group’s anti-Muslim videos. Britain is eager to strike a free trade deal with the US after it leaves the EU in 2019 US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today that US is ready to negotiate an “attractive” trade deal with Britain once the country has left the European Union. Trump’s “America First” agenda and aversion to multilateral trade agreements would seem at odds with a global summit that stresses free trade and international cooperation. But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is leading the largest US delegation ever to attend the exclusive gathering, said yesterday that “America First’ does mean working with the rest of the world.” “It just means that President Trump is looking out for American workers and American interests, no different than he expects other leaders would look out for their own,” he said. The president is set to address the forum Friday.

He is expected to showcase the booming US economy and measures like his recent tax overhaul, claiming that a thriving America benefits the world. A vocal critic of trade deals he sees as unfair to the United States, Trump will also stress the need for what he sees as fair competition. During his two-day stop, the president will also attend a reception in his honor, host European executives for dinner and meet with world leaders, including Swiss President Alain Berset and Rwandan President Paul Kagame. In the lead-up to Trump’s arrival, other leaders at the meeting have argued against any drift toward protectionism in the global economy. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said new barriers to trade could pose a danger on a par with climate change and extremist attacks. And Canada’s Justin Trudeau revealed that his country and the 10 remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have revised their trade deal following the U.S. withdrawal. This year’s forum theme is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” Panel topics include “The Global Impact of America First,” ”A Society Divided,” ”Post-Establishment Politics?” and “The Weaponization of Culture.”

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