The Trump administration has been using strong arm tactics to address issues in the Middle Eastb. It is clear that a softer diplomacy is not on the agenda for this administration, sending waves throughout the region.
Vice President Mike Pence is heading out on a tour of the Middle East, after previously postponing the trip. Pence’s trip is going to insert him into the debate about the role of the U.S. in the future peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as recent threats by President Trump to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority. He is questioning whether the U.S. should continue the payments, when the Palestinians are “no longer willing to talk peace.”
The attempt to withhold those payments is considered critical by the Trump administration to bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiation table and to start the peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and #Israel again.
Therefore, the timing of Pence’s visit seems particularly important, and sends another message to the Palestinians, as the #Vice President will not be visiting Palestine. Instead, he will be visiting Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. This is the first visit after President Trump made the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital alone. He even argued that this move would help the peace process by taking the issue off the table.
#Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the #international community. The city’s status is among the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Trump’s controversial decision sparked protests in Arab and Muslim countries and was rejected in a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution, making it unlikely that the unilateral decision by the #U.S. President will have any effect on taking the issue off the table.
“In some ways, this trip could now become the moment where the #Trump administration finally walks away from the notion of a serious peace negotiation and just goes full in with the Israelis,” said Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.
Before Trump’s announcement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had planned to meet with Pence, but he has pulled out of the meeting in protest. The White House decision on Jerusalem prompted several leading Muslim and Christian clerics in Egypt to refuse to meet with the Vice President in Cairo.
However, the announcement from Trump did not improve relations with Israel either, as he indicated that the U.S. would be moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“The Vice-President is traveling to the Middle East to reaffirm our commitment to work with the United States’ allies in the region to defeat radicalism that threatens future generations. He is looking forward to meeting with the leaders of Egypt, #Jordan, and Israel to discuss ways to work together to fight terrorism and improve our #national security”, said Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary.
All of these developments appear to have decreased the U.S. influence in the region, putting the country at odds with allies and enemies alike. The question is how the U.S. and the Trump administration is going to move forward and if Pence can smooth things out with key allies in the region.
The trip to Jordan is also going to be tense, as this #American ally previously indicated that any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will threaten the renewal of any peace talks. Jordan has a large Palestinian population and the king serves as a guardian of the third holiest site of Islam.