Donald Trump appeared to suggest the UK and more than 100 other countries were “enemies of America” in his State of the Union address, re-igniting a row over his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel‘s capital.
Asserting the US’ “sovereign right” to make that decision, he lamented that billions of foreign aid dollars had gone to some of the 128 countries that backed a UN resolution condemning it in December.
The money should “only go to friends of America, not enemies of America”, Mr Trump said in his address to Congress on Tuesday night.
He said: “Last month, I also took an action endorsed unanimously by the Senate just months before — I recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“Shortly afterwards, dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America’s sovereign right to make this decision.
“In 2016, American taxpayers generously sent those same countries more than $20bn (£14.1bn) in aid every year.
“That is why, tonight, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.”
In the next breath, however, he said the US continued to “strengthen friendships around the world”.
Mr Trump’s decision to officially recognise Jerusalem and announce his intention to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv led to days of protests by Palestinian activists, which resulted in a number of deaths.
Ahead of the UN vote the US’ ambassador to the body, Nikki Haley, warned she was “taking names” of countries that voted to condemn the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“I want you to know the President and the US take this vote personally. The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us”, she said.
It is not the first time Mr Trump has publicly clashed with the UK.
After Theresa May criticised his decision to retweet Islamophobic posts by the far-right group Britain First, the US President tweeted that she should not focus on him, but on “the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”
When the pair met at Davos last week, however, Mr Trump claimed they had “a great relationship” and were “on the same the wavelength in I think every respect”.
A visit to Britain by the Republican appears to be back on the cards, after he said he would not open the new US Embassy in Battersea because it cost too much and was in an “off location”.
Protesters had pledged massive demonstrations when a full state visit was first mooted in 2017.
Ms May was the first foreign leader to visit Mr Trump in Washington after his inauguration. She later said she was “optimistic and positive for the future” of the special relationship.