That hasn’t pushed Palestinians toward accepting U.S. prescriptions. Instead, the Palestinian public has rallied around the embattled Palestinian Authority, led by aging and ailing Mahmoud Abbas, and doubled down on opposition to Trump’s policies. This in turn has posed challenges for Palestinians pushing to reform their own leadership.
Trump’s plan, which would make many Jewish settlements in occupied territory part of Israel proper, has little prospect of attracting widespread buy-in among Palestinian leaders, who appear to be focused on organizing opposition to it. In the wake of the announcement, Israel’s government is set to vote Sunday on plans to annex 30 percent of the occupied West Bank.
Here’s a timeline charting the development of Trump’s policies toward the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority, the semiautonomous government in parts of the West Bank.
December 2016: President-elect Trump announced plans to nominate his attorney David Friedman — an outspoken political and financial backer of Israeli settlements in the West Bank — as the U.S. ambassador to Israel. The Senate approved Friedman in a vote split nearly along party lines in March 2017.
In addition, Trump appointed Jason Greenblatt, a former Trump Organization lawyer, as the administration’s top Middle East peace envoy.
Senior U.S. officials, including Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, would in the following years go on to make comments that offended Palestinians, such as questioning their ability to govern themselves and expressing support for Israeli settlements, which are deemed illegal under international law, and their annexation.
December 2017: Trump announced that the United States would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a break with long-standing U.S. policy. Previous presidents had held off relocating the embassy until Jerusalem’s final status could be agreed upon in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians claim Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
January 2018: In tweets, Trump threatened to cut U.S. aid to the Palestinians. The announcement came after Abbas rejected Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and pledged to reject any Trump-sponsored peace plan.
The United States and the European Union are major donors to the aid-dependent Palestinian Authority. At the time, Israeli security officials warned that an aid cut “could weaken a Palestinian leadership that cooperates with Israel on security matters and fuel extremism by worsening already dire humanitarian conditions,” The Washington Post reported.
Trump went on to say that he would slash an installment of U.S. funding for the United Nations body for Palestinian refugees, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Palestinians warned that the cut could be “a death sentence.” The aid had been helping UNRWA fund schools, health care and food aid for impoverished Palestinians.
The move also raised worries among Palestinians that the Trump administration would seek to redefine the United Nations‘ parameters for who counts as a Palestinian refugee. The U.N. status includes the descendants of those displaced by Israel’s founding in 1948, today numbering more than 5 million people.
May 2018: The Trump administration officially inaugurated the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. (The same day, Israeli soldiers shot dead dozens of Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip demonstrating along the buffer zone.) The embassy opening coincided with the Nakba, or the catastrophe, when Palestinians commemorate the expulsion and displacement of about 700,000 people at the time of Israel’s founding.
August 2018: Washington announced another cut in aid to Palestinians, this time $200 million in funding to programs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The State Department said the cutbacks were meant “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with U.S. national interests and provide value to the U.S. taxpayer.”
“This administration is dismantling decades of U.S. vision and engagement in Palestinian territories,” Husam Zomlot, then a Palestinian envoy in Washington, said in a statement. “After Jerusalem and UNRWA, this is another confirmation of abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing [Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s anti-peace agenda.”
Later that month, the Trump administration decided to cut off the remaining aid to UNRWA.
September 2018: Trump cut one of the few remaining Palestinian aid programs, $25 million in assistance to six hospitals in East Jerusalem. A few days later, the administration announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization mission to Washington.
The United States revoked visas for Zumlot and his family. Later that month, Trump cut $10 million in aid for conflict resolution and coexistence programs that bring Israelis and Palestinians together.
February 2019: The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, passed unanimously by the House and Senate the previous year with Trump’s support, came into force, effectively cutting off further funding to the Palestinians. The law opens up the Palestinian Authority to lawsuits in U.S. courts if it accepts certain U.S. funding because of the authority’s payments to Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, including those jailed for attacks against Israelis.
March 2019: Ahead of Israeli elections, Trump recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. The move raised speculation that it would do the same for East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Israel also began occupying after the Six-Day War in 1967.
June 2019: Kushner hosted a conference in Bahrain to pitch the first part of Trump’s peace plan, focused on economic elements. The Palestinian leadership boycotted the event.
“The White House’s economic plan envisages $50 billion in regional investment projects over the next decade, more than half in the West Bank and Gaza, and the rest in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon,” The Post’s Loveday Morris reported. “But the initiative has been met with widespread skepticism and already has been rejected by the Palestinian leadership, which complains that the U.S. administration cannot be an honest peace broker after taking several pro-Israel measures, including recognizing the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
November 2019: The United States said it would no longer consider Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank to be illegal under international law, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. The move angered Palestinians, who say the Israeli settlements are an impediment to peace and make a contiguous Palestinian state practically impossible.
January 2020: Trump announced the particulars of his peace plan, which relative to previous proposals is far more favorable toward Israel.
In the immediate aftermath, Israel moved forward with plans to vote on the annexation of settlements in parts of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley.