Arab States Believe U.S. Aid Safe Despite Defying Trump

AMMAN/CAIRO (Reuters) -

Leading Arab allies threatened with cuts in aid by U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday they had no choice but to defy his recognition of Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital, and did not believe he would follow through on the aid cuts.

More than 120 countries, including every Arab nation, voted at the U.N. General Assembly late on Thursday to urge the United States to withdraw its decision, announced earlier this month.

Trump repeated his threat on Friday, writing on Twitter, “After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country!”

In Egypt and Jordan, among the top recipients of U.S. aid but long the most heavily invested in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Trump’s threats were not taken seriously enough to backtrack on firm opposition to the U.S. move.

“The Americans know more than any one else that a stable Jordan is crucial for U.S. interests in the region,” said a government minister who asked not to be named.

For its cooperation in defense and other fields, Jordan receives some $1.2 billion annually from Washington.

“We do not expect the American administration to touch assistance, but if it does this will only add to Jordan’s economic woes,” the minister said.

Former Jordanian Prime Minister Taher al-Masri said Jordan’s role as an ally in a volatile region where unrest has led to attacks on U.S. soil would likely keep the aid safe.

“Trump is not giving us aid as charity. Jordan performs a regional role in stability that we have not gone back on delivering,” he said.

However, in a sign of concern over Trump’s unpredictability, some Jordanian officials privately expressed concern.

Masri said the U.N. resolution would have received many more votes from member states had Trump not made his threat.

For Arab and Muslim states, anything less than total rejection of Trump’s Yerushalayim decision would have been impossible, he said.

Egypt, which led regional efforts to reject Trump’s decision as having a “negative impact” on security in the region, has been a key broker of past peace deals. Egypt’s foreign ministry and presidency could not be reached for comment after several attempts following the General Assembly vote.

H.A. Hellyer, an Egypt expert at the Atlantic Council, said Egypt likely felt secure over its $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid despite Trump’s threats.

“I don’t think Egypt will be worried … certainly Trump’s inner circle will not be too impressed – but I doubt that it will extend beyond that,” he said.