Jerusalem is 'not for sale' Palestinians warn Donald Trump as he threatens to cut aid over ailing peace talks

Josie Ensor
Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after Trump's address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem  - Reuters

Jerusalem is "not for sale" the Palestinian government has warned the US, after Donald Trump threatened to cut off $300 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority. 

Relations between the White House and the Palestinians have soured since the US president's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December, upending 70 years of US policy. 

Since the decision Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with American officials regarding the peace process, saying the US has relinquished its role as a mediator in peace talks. 

Mr Trump dismissed Palestinian outrage at the move and threatened to cut off the $300 million annual aid the US currently gives the Palestinian Authority in a bid to force them to return to the negotiating table.

In apparent acknowledgment that peace talks, or the “ultimate deal” as Mr Trump’s calls it, had failed, the president tweeted: "With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

"They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue ... peace treaty with Israel," he wrote.

But in an angry rebuke to Mr Trump's threat, Mr Abbas' spokesman told reporters on Wednesday: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine and it is not for sale for gold or billions”.

“We are not against going back to negotiations, but (these should be) based on international laws and resolutions that have recognised an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital”.

Palestinian demonstrators scuffle with Israeli soldiers during a demonstration at the Huwara checkpoint, south of Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Credit: AFP

The tweet came after Nikki Harley, the US's ambassador to the United Nations, threatened to cut aid to the UNRWA, the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees, unless the Palestinian leadership came back to the negotiating table.

Mr Trump infuriated Palestinians and Muslims across the Middle East when he announced late last year that the US would consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move its embassy there, upending decades of US policy and igniting protests.

Palestinians rely heavily on the $320 million in aid money they receive each year, which experts say helps bring some security to the volatile region.

His comments came hours after Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian National Council, said the Palestinians would not be “blackmailed” by US threats.

Mr Trump's latest comments appear to contradict his previous statement that the US recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would not impact the final status of the city in peace negotiations. In his tweet he claimed instead that "we have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table."

The US president has also threatened to cut off foreign aid money to other countries that do "nothing" for the US. 

It follows an earlier tweet lambasting Pakistan for failing to do enough to combat terror groups while taking US aid. "No more!" Trump had tweeted on Monday.