US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley yesterday warned that the US may stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) if the Palestinians continue to refuse to negotiate with Israel.
Asked by a journalist whether the US would maintain UNRWA funding in light of Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour’s, threat to “unleash all the weapons we have in the UN,” Haley suggested future funding might be conditional on the Palestinians returning to the negotiating table.
She said: “As of now, they’re not coming to the table, but they ask for aid. We’re not giving the aid, we’re going to make sure they come to the table and we want to move forward with the peace process.”
US President Donald Trump tweeted along similar lines to Haley afterwards, saying: “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. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more,” he added, “but with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
Avi Dichter, Chair of Knesset Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Israel “should keep a careful eye open to ensure we will not have to pay for Jerusalem recognition with concessions” in response to Trump’s comment that Jerusalem is now “off the table” and that Israel “would have had to pay more”.
Israeli Minister Michael Oren praised Haley’s comment, saying that “in the past, every time the Palestinians refused to negotiate with Israel they were rewarded. But no more…. Finally, there will be a price for leaving the table”.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in response to the US announcement: “We will not be blackmailed. President Trump has sabotaged our search for peace, freedom and justice. Now he dares to blame the Palestinians for the consequences of his own irresponsible actions!”
The US is the largest funder of UNRWA, providing more than $300m per year to its work in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.