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Trump to US Jews: No aid for Palestinians until deal with Israel

The United States was paying Palestinians “tremendous amounts of money. And I say, 'You’ll get money, but we’re not paying until you make a deal,’ ” the president tells American Jewish leaders in a conference call.

U.S. President Donald Trump. Credit: Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa via Flickr.
U.S. President Donald Trump. Credit: Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa via Flickr.

U.S. President Donald Trump marked the upcoming Jewish New Year in a conference call with several dozen American Jewish leaders on Thursday and discussed with them his administration’s policies on Israel, the Palestinians and Iran.

He said that the United States would resume funding to the Palestinian Authority and to the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, but only if the Palestinians reached a deal with Israel.

“What I will tell you is I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians and the Palestinian leaders,” said Trump. “The United States was paying them tremendous amounts of money. And I say, ‘You’ll get money, but we’re not paying until you make a deal. If you don’t make a deal, we’re not paying.’ ”

Referring to U.S. aid being used as a bargaining chip, Trump said, “I don’t think it’s disrespectful at all. I think it’s disrespectful when people don’t come to the table.”

Trump also said he had removed Jerusalem as the first obstacle to a peace deal. Last December, Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital and in May he moved the U.S. embassy there.

“The fact is that I took something off the table,” he said.

“If you go back and look at your negotiations with the Palestinians over the years, the first thing was Jerusalem and moving the embassy to Jerusalem, thereby making it the capital. And I will tell you, we’ve taken that off the table.

“A few days before the declaration on Jerusalem, I stopped taking calls from foreign leaders who wanted to persuade me not to do it [relocate the embassy]. We took Jerusalem off the table, and I believe it will help get a deal done,” he said.

He added that Israel would have to do something for the Palestinians but did not specify what that might be, and vowed to continue to defend Israel in international institutions.

Trump also praised the newly imposed economic sanctions on Iran, saying Iran was “no longer the same country” as when he entered office in 2016.

“I would imagine that they’ll be calling in the not-too-distant future to try and make a deal. If we can make a real deal, we’ll do it. If they don’t call, that’s OK, too. Eventually, they’re going to have no choice,” he said.

Trump concluded the call by wishing the Jewish leaders and their communities a happy new year and noting his personal link to Judaism.

“My connection to Judaism is also personal. I am the very proud father of a Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and my son-in-law, who I’m very proud of also—I will say that very loudly—Jared and my several Jewish grandchildren, namely three beautiful Jewish grandchildren that I love,” he said.

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