This week President Trump threatened to cut US aid for Palestinians if they don't come to the peace table. That comes weeks after his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and to move the US embassy there. Scott Thuman traveled to the tense West Bank to ask what Palestinians think of Trump and the prospects for peace.
Through heavily-guarded checkpoints, and signs warning Israelis that entering here is both illegal and potentially deadly, we cross into the West Bank city Ramallah, effectively and for now, the Palestinian capital. Here, President Trump's decision to recognize the contested city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked more than just tough talk. Violence broke out after President Trump's announcement. Livid over what they see as the U.S. siding with Israel and seeming to dismiss their claims to Jerusalem, Palestinian leaders called for 'three days of rage.' This anger, directed less at Israel and more, at the United States for its change of policy. Emergency meetings at the U.N. in New York left the U.S. facing condemnation by more than one hundred countries, which left President Trump threatening to cut-off some of the millions Washington contributes to the organization.
President Trump: Let them vote against us, we'll save a lot, we don't care.
Nabil Shaath, former Palestinian foreign minister and senior advisor to the current Palestinian leader, says he, and all Palestinians, were blindsided.
Nabil Shaath: Everything on their mind had to with Mr. Netanyahu. Palestinians were not on their mind. I don't think they calculated what is the effect of what he did, on the whole, the world, actually, not only the Palestinians. The thousands of people who took to the streets from Jakarta to Venezuela. I mean there were so many people who simply found it totally objectionable, totally unaccepted. And, he says, when it comes to ending the violence in the Middle East, this move radically alters the situation.
And, he says, when it comes to ending the violence in the Middle East, this move radically alters the situation. Here in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, many told us they had seen America as an honest broker in the peace process, now, they see betrayal.
Nabil Shaath: You cannot be a broker if you are the enemy of one of the two parties, or if you are only the friend of one the two parties, or if you side with the, with the other party all the time, particularly in important issues, and before you get started.
Scott Thuman: Do you ever see yourself at a bargaining table with President Trump or his administration?
Nabil Shaath: Alone?
Scott Thuman: Sure.
Nabil Shaath: No, no I don't think so, but with him together with four, five other leaders, why not? Why not accept the fact that the world is moving towards this multi-polar world? Why doesn't he accept the fact that he is not anymore the owner of the universe?
We went to Tel Aviv to meet another former foreign minister, this time for Israel. Tzipi Livni told us the Palestinians can choose to respond with violence or negotiation, it's up to them.
Tzipi Livni: What I said to the Palestinians is the following: "maybe, or I'm sure you didn't like this declaration, and maybe you have different expectations, but those believing in peace, those who want really to create a Palestinian state, it's time to negotiate.
Scott Thuman: But that's what we're hearing from some on the Palestinian side. They say in fact, this damages peace negotiations.
Tzipi Livni: It's their decision. The declaration itself shouldn't and doesn't damage peace negotiations. As long as the Palestinians, instead of focusing on the declaration, would focus on how to re-launch peace negotiations. And there is no excuse for terror, there is no excuse for violence.
On the streets of Bethlehem, another Palestinian run city that's surrounded by Israel's security barrier, the sentiment can be even less friendly, this man says, with reason.
Man: Made in the U.S., dangerous, do not shoot directly into person because it's dangerous to shoot directly at the person. And here, Jamestown, Pennsylvania.
Scott Thuman: When you see those tear gas canisters you just pointed out and it was made in America: How does that make you feel about America?
Man: About the government: bad feeling, but about the people, we have a lot of people, I have thousands and thousands of friends.
Scott Thuman: So you are making the distinction, you like American people, you just don't like the American government?
Man: Exactly, for sure, because the people in America, very many are nice people, good people.
White House officials who explained the president's decision to move the embassy and declare Jerusalem Israel's capital, was a way to convince Israel it, in turn, must make concessions in the peace negotiations. Palestinian leaders called those negotiations dead. As a result, President Trump threatened to cut-off some U.S. funding to the Palestinian authority.
Woman: We were feeling that it's getting actually close to peace, but unfortunately things are getting worse. They're getting worse. And that's sad. The clashes are getting on. And our life, our lifestyle, became actually very very hard now.
Scott Thuman: And the peace process?
Woman: What peace are you talking about?
Scott Thuman: No chance now?
Her: I doubt it. As an American citizen & Palestinian, I doubt it.
There's been no official announcement from the White House about pulling funding for the Palestinian government. As for the peace process, Nabil Shaath -the senior foreign policy aide for the Palestinian Authority President who you saw in our report- shortly after our interview, he flew to Moscow to meet the Russian foreign minister. Meanwhile, another Palestinian delegation went to China. The purpose of both trips: finding a new intermediary, a new mediator, in the peace process to replace the United States.