As the U.S. moves closer to fulfilling its threat to withhold tens of millions of dollars from a U.N. refugee aid agency in order to pressure Palestinians back to peace talks, an indignant Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, blasted U.S. President Donald Trump in a fiery speech on Sunday and sent this message to his administration: "Damn your money!"
"We can say 'no' to anyone if things are related to our fate and our people, and now we have said 'no' to Trump. We told him the deal of the century was the slap of the century. But we will slap back."
—Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority
Abbas has said that Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli captial—which was widely rebuked by the international community—destroyed his administration's credibility to serve as a lead mediator in future negotiations to resolve the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Shame on you," Abbas fumed, noting that Trump's promised peace deal has not materialized or resulted in talks with Israel. "He said, 'I will give you a peace deal.' The deal turned out to be a mess. He said, 'We will not pay for the Palestinians because they stopped the negotiations.' Where are the negotiations?"
"We will not accept for the U.S. to be a mediator, because after what they have done to us—a believer shall not be stung twice in the same place," Abbas said Sunday at the opening of a two-day gathering of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council.
"We can say 'no' to anyone if things are related to our fate and our people, and now we have said 'no' to Trump," Abbas added. "We told him the deal of the century was the slap of the century. But we will slap back."
Abbas also slammed U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has supported illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who warned the United States would be "taking names" during the U.N. General Assembly vote to denounce the Jerusalem decision. "These two are a disgrace to any administration who respects itself, if it wanted to respect itself," he said.
Abbas' sharp remarks come as the Trump administration prepares to more than halve the millions of dollars it was slated to give to a U.N. aid agency that serves Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and refugees in the diaspora, in response to Palestinians' rejection of the U.S. as a future mediator.
"Trump hasn't made a final decision, but appears more likely to send only $60 million of the planned $125 million first installment to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency," the Associated Press reported Monday. "The plan to withhold some of the money is backed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who offered it as a compromise to demands for more drastic measures" by Haley.
Last year, Trump appointed Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior advisor, to lead the U.S. effort to draft a peace agreement for Israel and the Palestinians; the administration has not yet released the details of the proposed deal.
Palestinian officials told the AP "that while they have not received a formal proposal from the U.S., they have heard from Saudi interlocutors that the U.S. is exploring the possibility of offering the Palestinians a statelet in the parts of the West Bank they already control, with Israel controlling the borders, and the Gaza Strip," which "would fall far short of Palestinian claims to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza for an independent state."