Trump Threatens To Cut Off Palestinian Aid
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
President Trump has threatened to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Palestinians if they don't come back to the negotiating table. This after Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and declared his intention to move the U.S. embassy there. Joining us on the line to talk about it all is Diana Buttu. She was legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team. Welcome.
DIANA BUTTU: Thank you, Lu. Thanks for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to look at the reaction to the Trump administration's move, first, inside the Palestinian territories and in the region more broadly. What's going on in your view?
BUTTU: Well, we've seen that there have been a number of protests happening both within Palestine and around the neighboring countries and in the Islamic world as a whole. As a result of these protests, Israeli forces have now killed 15 Palestinians simply for demonstrating their discontent against the U.S. decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The protests haven't been as widespread as people have expected. But nonetheless, these protests are continuing. And it's a show and a sign that the world is not standing by Trump and his declaration and his pronouncements and certainly not his positions.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well - and yet the Saudi crown prince is reported to have urged Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to accept a very limited state noncontiguous with most settlements remaining. And we've also heard sort of similar backroom discussions from Egypt and other countries in the region.
BUTTU: Yes. You're absolutely right. There hasn't been a time in - since 1967 where Saudi Arabia has been on the right side when it comes to Palestinian rights. The real question is whether Mahmoud Abbas is going to sign something like that. And as much as he's somebody I criticize and I'm not a fan of, this is not an agreement that I see him signing onto because it doesn't even ensure that Palestinian rights are being protected.
Instead, it legitimates the settlements that are illegal. It removes Jerusalem - Palestinian Jerusalem. And it is effectively doing away with the Palestinian right of return. So this is not something that any Palestinian leader, including Mahmoud Abbas, is going to sign onto.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've complained that the U.S. through both Republican and Democratic administrations has ceded to Israel on most issues and, therefore, has never really been a fair and impartial third party. Has Trump, in effect, made what you consider to be unstated U.S. policy simply more explicit?
BUTTU: He certainly has. One of the things that Trump has done is that he's brought to the forefront and brought to the - brought - made very apparent that the United States has never been an honest broker - not under Clinton, not under Bush and certainly not under Obama.
Obama was a president who gave Israel the largest aid package that Israel has ever seen. And it had also turned a blind eye to Israeli settlement activity. What Trump has now done is he's put it very much in your face and made it clear that the United States has never been and will never be an honest broker.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Trump, in one of his tweets, did say that Israelis would have to pay more, though, for the recognition of their capital, suggesting Israel will have to make significant concessions to Palestinians. Does that encourage you at all?
BUTTU: No. I'm not at all encouraged. I've seen both Trump's history, as well as the people that he's surrounded himself by. And it doesn't at all leave me with any signs of encouragement that his path is going to change. In fact, I think it's actually going to get much worse.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is there a worry among Palestinians, though, about the threat of cutting off funding? Because, obviously, the United States does give a significant amount of money to the Palestinian Authority.
BUTTU: I'm not so worried about that. And I'm not so worried about that for two reasons - first, because the Israelis understand that the survival of the Palestinian Authority is also in their interest, which is why they have been lobbying for money to go to the Palestinian Authority. And secondly, Palestinians are not for sale. And we will not be blackmailed by anybody and certainly not by the likes of President Trump.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Diana Buttu is a lawyer and former adviser to Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Thank you so much.
BUTTU: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.