According to the Associated Press, President Donald Trump told reporters Friday at the Israel Hayom, a pro-Netanyahu daily newspaper, that he considers his decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel the most memorable event of his presidency.
“I think Jerusalem was a very big point,” he said. “And I think it was a very important point. The capital, having Jerusalem be your great capital, was a very important thing to a lot of people.”
In January, Trump threatened to cut funds to Palestine if Palestinians continue to refuse peace talks with Israel. The funds were for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley advised U.S. officials to stall the funds until Palestinians resumed peace talks with Israel, noting that the U.S. is the largest donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which “focuses on providing health care, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.”
The U.S. government believes severing cash flow to the agency would put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table for a peace deal with Israel and to crack down on Palestinian militants.
In response, Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, went on a two-hour rant criticizing Trump’s proposal as the “slap of the century” and the president’s attitude as “a slap in the face,” both of which the Palestinians plan to “slap back” against.
The plan has not been implemented, and the State Department has commented that “the decision is under review. There are still deliberations taking place.” If the plan were implemented, the Palestinians would still receive $65 million in the first of two donation installments, all of which would go to Palestinians.
In a speech to Israel’s Knesset in January, Vice President Mike Pence doubled down on Trump’s decision to relocate the capital.
“America stands with Israel. We stand with Israel because our cause is your cause. Your values are our values. And your fight is our fight,” Pence continued. “We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny.”
The vice president described President Trump as “a leader who has done more to bring [the U.S. and Israel] together than any president” since the founding of Israel 70 years ago.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lauded Trump’s pro-Israel stance. During a visit to European Union headquarters in Brussels last December, Netanyahu urged EU members to follow Trump’s lead.
“For 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people [and for 70 years] it has been the capital of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “I think what President Trump has done is put facts squarely on the table.”