U.S. President Donald Trump has questioned whether peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians will ever resume.
Trump made the remarks in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he accused the Palestinians of disrespecting the United States after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his recent visit to the region.
Trump threatened Thursday to cut aid to the Palestinians.
“That money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” he told reporters. “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.”
WATCH: Trump on Palestinians
According to State Department figures, the U.S. provided slightly more than $290 million in foreign assistance for the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2016. Separately, Washington contributed an additional $355 million to the U.N. agency that supports Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA. But this year, the U.S. has significantly cut its assistance to UNRWA, announcing a $60 million contribution.
Only a portion of U.S. funds go directly to the Palestinian Authority, with much of the assistance routed to nongovernmental groups and humanitarian partners working there.
By contrast, in 2016, Washington provided Israel with $3.1 billion in military aid. Under a 10-year bilateral military aid package signed under President Barack Obama in 2016, that amount will increase to $3.8 billion a year starting in 2019.
“No price tag can be put on the rights and dignity of any people,” Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour said Thursday in New York. “They cannot be quashed by threats, intimidation or punitive action, and such attempts must be rejected by all who seek peace and justice and who truly believe in international law as the path for their realization.”
Mansour’s comments came during a U.N. Security Council meeting on the Middle East.
During the session, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley slammed President Abbas as lacking the courage to forge peace with Israel.
“We will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace,” Haley said. “To get historic results, we need courageous leaders.”
Earlier in Davos, Trump rejected what he called “false rumors” of differences with British Prime Minister Theresa May and promised to boost trade after Britain’s EU exit.
“I look forward to the discussions that will be taking place are going to lead to tremendous increases in trade between our two countries which is great for both in terms of jobs,” he said, adding that Britain and the United States are “joined at the hip when it comes to the military.”
There is nervousness that Trump’s “America First” diplomacy is about to shake-up the global system that underpins the Davos summit. Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said many Europeans are hoping for a positive message.
“I hope he will send a message, of course it will be ‘America First’, but if he could add on ‘But not alone’, or ‘But America First and we need cooperation with the rest of the world’ or whatever, that could be nice, because I think everybody needs to realize, whether you are a leader from a small or medium-sized or big countries, that you can’t achieve what you want on your own. The world is faced with a lot of challenges, which can only be solved with close international cooperation,” Rasmussen said Thursday.
Wealth distribution questioned
The general mood in Davos is upbeat, with the IMF forecasting synchronized global growth across 2018. But behind the many closed doors, there is talk of danger ahead. The background report to the WEF summit is titled “Fractures, Fears and Failures,” a reflection of growing global tension, says Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at City University London.
“Even though international wealth and the wealth of states and the levels of economic growth and the GDPs of states have grown, the inequality of the distribution is having large scale political effects.”
The fortunes of the world’s wealthiest 500 billionaires rose by a quarter last year, while the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population did not increase their income.
Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, in Davos for the summit, says it’s time for action. “I’m here to tell big business and politicians that this is not natural, that it’s their actions and their policies that have caused it, and they can reverse it.”
Trump is due to give the closing speech to the conference Friday.
“President Trump will be speaking to two audiences, the ones assembled in front of him, and his voter base at home. And I have a strong feeling that he is going to give some strong words in order to show people back home that he has gone to the belly of the beast itself, of globalization, and told them that he stands for America and the American people,” said analyst Parmar.
Davos is braced for what could be a dramatic finale Friday.
Margaret Besheer at the United Nations contributed to this report.