David A. Andelman, visiting scholar at the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, wrote an op-ed for CNN about world leaders and the Trump administration.
With Vice President Mike Pence receiving a hero’s welcome in Jerusalem from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but a cold shoulder from Arab leaders from Palestine to Jordan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas heads to Brussels to meet Europe’s foreign ministers. It’s a clear end run around Trump’s flailing efforts to broker peace in that corner of the Middle East.
With Pence at his side, Netanyahu pointed out that this is the first official visit by a senior American official to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, suggesting to a gaggle of reporters that the American Embassy could begin operations there “by next week.”
Hours later, Pence elaborated in a speech to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, that the move will come next year — far earlier than originally anticipated.
The visit was a clear opportunity for Netanyahu to rub the Palestinians’ noses in the entire process.
Symmetrically, in Brussels, Abbas has chosen to ask Europe’s foreign ministers to recognize Palestine as a state. European leaders aren’t prepared to go quite that far — not yet — but could move substantially toward a formal recognition that only a two-state solution will work. Indeed, France is said to be determined to press European leaders to take a first concrete step by granting an “association agreement” between the European Union and the Palestinian Authority.
None of this is a good sign for any chance of a peace plan that started off a year ago to be brokered by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, but apparently went off the edge of a cliff when the American President suddenly recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and pledged to move the American Embassy there.
Pence had a chilly reminder of just what the American future might be in much of the Arab world during his last stop before Jerusalem. In Amman, Jordan’s widely-admired King Abdullah II delivered some pointed remarks at a lunch, warning the vice president that he “had continuously voiced over the past year, in my meetings with Washington, my concerns regarding the US decision on Jerusalem that does not come as a result of a comprehensive settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
After their session, Pence described their dialogue as “candid but cordial,” adding that “friends occasionally have disagreements.”
Pence has had a succession of other disappointments in the course of what he’d clearly hoped would be a landmark swing through the region. A devout evangelical Christian, Pence was barred by the Palestinian Authority from visiting Bethlehem, while senior Christian clerics in Egypt — the first stop on Pence’s trip — canceled some long-planned events.
Indeed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who to my eyes appears to be some kind of soulmate to President Trump, said his country would “spare no effort” in working toward a two-state solution. Another conversation that Pence described as “a disagreement between friends.”
This type of disagreement is spreading across Europe — a trend that Abbas is clearly poised to mine during his lunch with the continent’s foreign ministers. Each country, of course, will decide on its own how far to go toward recognizing a true Palestinian state or simply encouraging negotiations on a two-state solution.