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Trump’s Threat to Cut Palestinian Aid Worries Many in Israel

“We will not be blackmailed,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, said in a statement on Wednesday. “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!”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was also angry. “Jerusalem and its holy places are not for sale,’’ he said, “not with gold nor with silver.”

For Israelis, too, Mr. Trump’s tweets presented a problem and, inscrutable as a Talmudic text in parts, were left open to some feverish interpretation.

Trump’s Threat to Cut Palestinian Aid Worries Many in Israel
Trump’s Threat to Cut Palestinian Aid Worries Many in Israel

Mr. Trump was unclear about what funding he would cut and said that his administration had “taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table.”

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The statement appeared to contradict his own assurances, and those of other American officials, that the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty within Jerusalem were still up for discussion.

He also said that the Israelis “would have had to pay more” for the recognition of their capital, suggesting that the country would have had to reciprocate with significant concessions to the Palestinians.

The relationship between Israel and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency is complicated. Israel has accused the agency of perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem, while at the same time valuing the education, health care and food assistance it provides to more than two million Palestinians registered as refugees in the West Bank and Gaza.

Without the agency’s assistance, Israelis worry they would have to shoulder the cost. Any drastic cut in funding, either to the agency or to the Palestinian Authority and its security forces, would most likely destabilize these areas, according to experts.

Mr. Trump’s comments were met with silence from the Israeli prime minister’s office and the Foreign Ministry.

Some Israeli politicians on the right welcomed the fact Mr. Trump had clearly blamed the Palestinians for the stalled peace process, and they even praised the idea of reducing financial support.

“President Trump is not afraid to say the truth, even if it’s not popular,” said Naftali Bennett, the education minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party. “The truth is the U.S. has no interest in funding those who act against its interest. The truth is the Palestinian leadership continues to fund terrorists, using U.S. tax money.”

But other Israelis focused on the risks that cuts could bring. “A serious and responsible government would stop mixing politics with Israeli security and would sit quietly and discreetly with the American president and explain to him what the real Israeli interest is,” Tzipi Livni, a former foreign and justice minister, who now sits in the opposition, wrote on Twitter. That, she added, includes “avoiding a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and continuing cooperation with the Palestinian security forces.”

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