United States Vice-President Mike Pence is on a trip to Egypt, Jordan and Israel, to support the efforts of the administration of US President Donald Trump in pursuing an “ultimate deal” to bring about Middle East peace. In the long history of foreign trips by senior US officials, I am hard-pressed to find one that is likely to be more counterproductive than this visit.
After Trump’s decision last month to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, White House officials acknowledged that the Palestinians would need a “cooling off period” before they could return to constructive discussions. But instead of waiting patiently for the Palestinians to cool off, the US administration is throwing gasoline on the fire instead. Pence’s visit is just the latest in a series of escalatory steps. First, Pence announced that he would be visiting more than a month ago, leading Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to declare that he would not meet with the US vice-president. Pence’s office responded with a combative statement accusing the Palestinians of missing another opportunity to pursue peace. Since then, the Trump administration has continued to pour it on. Trump tweeted out a threat to cut off aid to the Palestinians if they did not re-engage in negotiations. Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, is holding up American contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides support for all kinds of programmes for Palestinian refugees, unless the Palestinians agree to resume negotiations.
The Palestinian reaction was expected. Last week, Abbas delivered a speech, making it clear he would not negotiate with Trump. It is now quite clear that no negotiations are happening anytime soon, and possibly never again with Abbas. Meanwhile, right-wingers in Israel see this as an opportunity to put a nail in the coffin of the two-state solution by pushing for legislation to annex parts of the West Bank or creating political hurdles that will make it impossible for any future government to negotiate on the final status of occupied Jerusalem. In the past, such initiatives have been restrained because Israeli politicians understood they could lead to unnecessary tensions with the US. But in this environment, there is a view in Israel that the US is willing to offer a blank cheque of support for even the most provocative actions, so long as Abbas and Trump remain so publicly estranged.
Read the full op-ed in Gulf News.
More from CNAS
ReportsA New U.S. Strategy for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Executive Summary Key Proposition Today’s realities demand that the United States change its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its current focus is on high-profile...
By Ilan Goldenberg, Michael Koplow & Tamara Cofman Wittes
CommentarySharper: U.S. Strategy in the Middle East
CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation surrounding the future of U.S. strategy in the Middle East....
By Kaleigh Thomas, Chris Estep & Cole Stevens
PodcastEpisode 118 | A Historic Day in Washington
Following the formal ceremony marking the normalisation of relations between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain at the White House, Richard Pater speaks to Ilan Goldenberg, the Direc...
By Ilan Goldenberg
CommentaryRecognizing the state of Palestine is the only appropriate response to Israeli annexation
The Israeli government may begin taking steps toward unilaterally annexing portions of the West Bank soon. This move would present a grave threat to any possibility of a futur...
By Ilan Goldenberg