Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday. Photo courtesy of PM of Israel/Twitter
Jan. 25 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump criticized Palestinian leaders, praised Israel and attempted to improve relations with Britain during his first day at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.
Before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May, agreeing to visit Britain later this year.
Appearing with Netanyahu after a one-on-one meeting, Trump threatened to withhold U.S. aid to the Palestinians "unless they sit down and negotiate peace" with the Jewish state during a joint appearance with the media.
He also said he won't support the Palestinians until the leaders act differently.
"Respect has to be shown to the U.S. or we're just not going any further," he told reporters.
Trump said Palestinians slighted the United States by refusing to meet with Vice President Mike Pence during his trip this week to the Middle East. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital was the reason for for the snub.
Trump sat next to Netanyahu when he said, "Israel has always supported the United States so what I did with Jerusalem was my honor. We took Jerusalem off the [negotiating] table, so we don't have to talk about it any more. They [the Palestinians] never got past Jerusalem."
Netanyahu called the recognition of Jerusalem "a historic decision that will be forever etched in the hearts of our people for generations to come. People say that this puts peace backward. I say it puts peace forward because it recognizes history, it recognizes the present reality, and peace can only be built on the basis of truth."
Regarding the prospects of peace talks, Trump told Netanyahu: "You won one point, and you'll give up some points later on in the negotiation, if it ever takes place -- I don't know that it will ever take place."
Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and a senior adviser, has been trying to restart the negotiations without apparent success. The last peace talks collapsed in April 2014.
Trump said he has a proposal but won't reveal it until the Palestinians stop slighting the United States.
He also defended his recent decision to withhold more than half of $125 million to pay the U.N. relief agency for the Palestinians in its latest installment.
"We give them [the Palestinians] hundreds of millions of dollars a year -- that is on the table -- why should we do something for them when they do nothing for us?" Trump asked.
"I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace and they're [the Palestinians] going to have to want to make peace too or we're going to have nothing to do with it any longer."
Abbas' office, though, said peace won't come through the United States.
"If Jerusalem is off the table, then America is off the table as well," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a phone call with CNN, reiterating the Palestinian position that it no longer recognizes the United States as a mediator in any peace negotiations with Israel.
There will be no negotiations, Abu Rudeineh said, until the Trump administration abides by international law and agrees to work toward a two-state solution.
Trump also attempted to make peace with Britain.
He told reporters in a joint appearance with May he predicted a "tremendous increase" in trade between the two nations and they stood "shoulder to shoulder" on shared threats.
Trump also downplayed any rift with May, calling it a "false rumor" and that the two leaders "like each other a lot." He also told May: "We love your country."
May was cordial with Trump, emphasizing their policy similarities.
"We, too, have that really special relationship between the U.K. and the United States," she said. "It's at each other's shoulders. We face the same challenges across the world, and as you say we're willing to go and to defeat those challenges and meet them."
The British government said afterward officials are working on "finalizing the details of a visit by the president to the U.K. later this year." Earlier this month Trump canceled a visit to Britain because he doesn't like the new U.S. Embassy in London.
Trump also has angered African nations after he reportedly called them "shithole countries" during a White House meeting on immigration this month.
Business Leadership Africa CEO Bonang Mohale, a Davos attendee, urged delegates to boycott Trump when he addresses the delegates Friday.
"The overt racism of these [shithole] statements is self-evident, and a stain on an office as august as yours," he wrote in an open letter. "Many of us will be boycotting your address to delegates at Davos in protest against your divisive comments and continued failure to unequivocally apologize. We encourage likeminded peers to do the same."
On Friday, Trump plans to meet with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, the incoming chairman of the African Union to White House press secretary"reaffirm the U.S.-Africa relationship and discuss shared priorities, including trade and security," national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters Tuesday in Washington.
The theme of this year's forum is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World," addressing the impact of nationalist and populist forces throughout the world on globalization.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao speaking on a panel Wednesday in Davos about Trump's upcoming speech, responded to hundreds who rallied in Zurich, Switzerland, to protest Trump's arrival, as well as critics possibly protesting at the forum.
"Davos should feel very flattered that he has chosen this as a forum," she said. "Those who don't want to listen to him can leave."
Trump met with European business leaders at a dinner Thursday in his honor.