Updated at 11:35 a.m. | President Donald Trump on Thursday said a peace plan has been presented to Israeli and Palestinian officials, but he threatened to withdraw the United States as an arbiter in the process unless Palestinian officials convince him they want a deal.
Speaking shortly after he arrived at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Trump did not go into specifics about what has been laid in front of the two sides. But he did contend that his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize it is the capital of the Jewish state has removed that sticking point from the peace process — something the Palestinian side staunchly rejects.
“Yes, we have a proposal for peace. It’s a great proposal for the Palestinians,” the president said. “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.”
Trump threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying Palestinians officials are not serious about reaching a deal.
“I don’t know that it ever will take place,” Trump said of actual talks, seated alongside Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. “Respect has to be shown to the U.S. or we’re just not going to go any further.”
Minutes later, he said he hopes both sides will come to the table. He also threatened to stop sending U.S. aid dollars to the Palestinian government.
“Why should we do that as a country if they do nothing for us,” Trump said. “And what we want to do is help them. … But the funding is on the table.”
Trump made clear he feels personally insulted by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas last week refusing to meet with Vice President Mike Pence while he was in the region last week. He did so over his frustration about Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem and the pending embassy move.
“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, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands,” Trump said.
“That money’s on the table. That money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace. Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace,” he said. “And they’re going to have to want to make peace, too, or we’re going to have nothing to do with them any longer. This was never brought up by other negotiators – but it’s brought up by me.”
He also shifted his administration’s timeline for opening a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, saying that the intention is to open a “small” portion of it “sometime next year.”
Pence last week raised eyebrows during a Middle East trip that included a stop in Israel when he said the new American embassy would open next year, prompting experts to say it would be difficult to do complicated things like design and build a new facility in such a short amount of time.
Trump’s comment suggests his administration is eying an existing facility or some temporary building that would be designated as a sort of interim embassy in Jerusalem.