One thing is becoming certain – you dismiss US President Donald Trump’s threats at your own peril.
For decades, Middle East despots and warlords were conditioned to shrug off American pressure, knowing full well that the White House didn’t have the guts to follow through.
Some might argue that it’s not about guts, that presidents like George W. Bush and Barack Obama were being diplomatic by necessity. But then, why apply pressure or issue warnings in the first place, as both former presidents often did? Making threats when everyone knows you have no intention of following through is the opposite of effective.
Well, those days are done under Trump, and the Palestinians just learned that lesson the hard way.
Last Thursday, Trump tweeted that he was questioning the usefulness of massive American financial aid to the Palestinian Authority when it continues to incite against Israel and won’t come to the negotiating table.
Just days later, it was revealed that Trump had significantly slashed US contributions to UNRWA, the special UN body set up to cater solely to so-called Palestinian “refugees.”
Until now, the US covered a full one-fourth of UNRWA’s operating costs.
Three Western diplomats confirmed to Israel’s Channel 10 News over the weekend that Trump had frozen $125 million in annual aid to UNRWA, about one-third of the annual US contribution.
The sources added that Trump could increase the cut to $180 million if the Palestinian Authority fails to get the message and rejoin the peace process.
UNRWA has long been criticized for allowing itself to be exploited by radical elements within the Palestinian power structure. In Gaza, the organization’s schools are routinely used as cover and storage facilities for Hamas forces, and the textbooks by which it teaches Palestinian children are laced with anti-Israel vitriol.
Successive American presidents have been aware of these problems, but have taken no concrete action for fear of upsetting the Arab “street.”
PHOTO: A Palestinian child hits his shoes on a picture of US President Donald Trump, painted by Palestinian art activists in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, January 04, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)