Today at joint press appearance with Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland, Donald Trump bragged that the U.S. had taken “the toughest issue” — Jerusalem– “off the table” with his embassy announcement. “We don’t have to talk about it anymore.”
But if the Palestinians don’t accept his Jerusalem announcement and don’t agree to negotiate peace with the Israelis, the U.S. was “going to have nothing to do with it any longer.”
Trump issued that warning in the context of threatening to withdraw hundreds of millions of aid from Palestine unless its leaders negotiate.
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… That money is on the table, and 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.
The president also said that the U.S. will have a “small version” of the Embassy opened in Jerusalem ahead of schedule in 2019.
Trump said Israel will “pay for” Jerusalem in negotiations to come, but expressed bewilderment at why the Palestinians take Jerusalem so seriously as to stop talking over it.
So I will say that the hardest subject they had to talk about was Jerusalem. 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. You won one point, and you’ll give up some points later on in the negotiation, if it ever takes place. I don’t know that it ever will take place.
But they have to respect the process also, and they have to respect the fact that the U.S. has given tremendous support to them over the years, in terms of monetary support and other support.
Amir Tibon of Haaretz says that Trump undercut his administration’s claims that Jerusalem’s borders and status as the Palestinian capital were all still on the table, despite the embassy announcement:
“Trump’s statement on Jerusalem today in Davos contradicts everything his own administration has been saying about the issue for the last month. It also makes his talk about a peace plan that would be ‘great for the Palestinians’ very unconvincing.”
Asked if he has a peace plan, Trump said “everybody is going to be very happy in the end” if the Palestinians would only talk:
Yes, we have a proposal for peace. It’s a great proposal for the Palestinians. I think it’s a very good proposal for Israel. It covers a lot of the things that were, over the years, discussed and agreed on. But the fact is — and I think you know this better than anybody — there were never any deals that came close, because Jerusalem — you could never get past Jerusalem.
So when people said, “Oh, I set it back” — I didn’t set it back, I helped it. Because by taking it off the table, that was the toughest issue. And Israel will pay for that.
Both Netanyahu and Trump said the friendship between the U.S. and Israel has never been stronger. Trump:
“We’ve developed a great relationship, both as countries where I think it’s never been stronger — and I can honestly say that — and also, as personal friends.”
I’ve never seen the holistic alliance between the United States, Israel, and your other allies in the region as strong, as unified as it is under your leadership… As you finish your first year in office, I want to say that I look forward to continuing our remarkable, tremendous friendship in the years ahead. And I want to express the appreciation of the people of Israel to you.
Netanyahu fulsomely praised Trump for expediting the Embassy move, thereby recognizing “history” and “the present reality;” praised him for undermining the Iran deal, and for standing up for Israel in the United Nations, “a house of slander against Israel and against the United States.”
As for the Palestinian leader, Trump, who is so thinskinned about any slight he receives from an American celebrity or politician, doesn’t even read what President Mahmoud Abbas said about him.
No, I didn’t really read his remarks, personally. I think I’m probably better off not seeing them. But we’ve done a lot for them, and hopefully they’re going to make peace for their people.
He finished the press conference by talking more about money, and the U.S. knowing what’s in Palestine’s interest.
But the money is on the table. The money was never on the table. I’ll tell you up front, we give them tremendous amounts — hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That money is on the table. Because why should we do that, as a country, if they’re doing nothing for us? And what we want to do for them is help them. We want to create peace and save lives. And we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens. But the money is on the table.
I imagine there are a lot of countries in Davos that will welcome the U.S. absenting itself from the peace business.