Mike Pence’s Self-Serving Trip to the Holy Land

Mike Pence’s Self-Serving Trip to the Holy Land

One place Mr. Pence did strike an enthusiastic chord was in Parliament in Israel, where a hard-line government is largely hostile to a two-state solution. Members interrupted him with standing ovations. His address was replete with biblical references to Jewish ties to the Holy Land. He referred to God’s promise to the Jews that “he would gather and bring you back to the land which your fathers possessed” and to “the Jewish people’s unbreakable bond to” Jerusalem.

Even more striking was what Mr. Pence didn’t say. He mostly chose to ignore Israelis’ shared history with the Palestinians, only reaffirming support for a two-state solution “if both sides agree.” Mr. Pence, who had urged Mr. Trump to recognize Jerusalem, also announced that the American Embassy in Tel Aviv would move to Jerusalem by the end of 2019, sooner than expected.

He further played his political and religious cards by inviting West Bank settlers as his guests at the event. The contrast could not have been starker to Parliament’s Israeli-Arab members, who held up signs saying, “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” They were forcibly removed by security as Mr. Pence began speaking.

For Israelis, the speech was “as ringing an endorsement of the Zionist enterprise as one could pray for” and evidence that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mr. Trump have “an unprecedented meeting of the minds,” wrote Chemi Shalev, a columnist for Haaretz. But for the Palestinians, he said, it was a “slap in the face.”

Yet another slap in the face. Although President Trump insists he wants an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, he has, unlike his predecessors, chosen to disqualify America as an honest broker. He has weakened the Palestinians by cutting millions of dollars in aid for health and education projects for Palestinian refugees and then fanned new tensions with his one-sided decision on Jerusalem. At the same time, the gulf between the United States and Europe, once close partners in the peace process, is growing. Such divisions only serve to make good outcomes harder to achieve.

Mr. Pence’s trip, especially his speech to Parliament, satisfied American evangelicals and Israeli hard-liners who dream of a greater Israel. That kind of support may help Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence with their electioneering at home. If they want to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, however, they will have to appeal to the Palestinians and Christians who now shun them.

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