Vice President Mike Pence told the Israeli parliament on Monday that the United States will open its embassy in Jerusalem “before the end of next year,” while also reiterating President Trump’s declaration that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as “the capital of the state of Israel.” The vice president was on the final leg of a 3-country visit in the Middle East, during which he had frank but cordial discussions with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan before arriving in Israel. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, continuing his temper tantrum, has refused to meet with the vice president.
Despite Abbas’s snub and forceful rejection of any U.S. role in future peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis, Vice President Pence urged the Palestinians to resume negotiations. He repeated President Trump’s pledge that the United States would support a two-state solution if both sides agreed. The vice president also noted that President Trump resolved to maintain the status quo at the holy places, including Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif, and was ”not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders.”
At the same time, Vice President Pence did not allow Abbas’s snub or any concerns over diplomatic niceties to temper his expression of the Trump administration’s strong support for Israel. To the contrary, he declared in his address to the Knesset, “I am here to convey a simple message from the hearts of the American people. America stands with Israel. We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight. We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, good over evil, and liberty over tyranny.”
Vice President Pence noted the historic and religious connection that the Jewish people have with the Holy Land, giving the lie to the revisionist history put forth by the Palestinians and their allies in the United Nations. “The Jewish people held fast to a promise through all the ages, written so long ago,” he said, “that ‘even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens,’ from there He would gather and bring you back to the land which your fathers possessed. Through a 2,000-year exile, the longest of any people, anywhere, through conquests and expulsions, inquisitions and pogroms, the Jewish people held on to this promise, and they held on to it through the longest and darkest of nights.”
The vice president spoke in Biblical terms of how “Israel is like a tree that has grown deep roots in the soil of your forefathers, yet as it grows, it reaches ever closer to the heavens. And today and every day, the Jewish State of Israel, and all the Jewish people, bear witness to God’s faithfulness, as well as your own.”
Vice President Pence recalled the special bond between the Jewish state of Israel and America. “In the story of the Jews, we’ve always seen the story of America,” he said. “It is the story of an exodus, a journey from persecution to freedom, a story that shows the power of faith and the promise of hope.” He added that “down through the generations, the American people became fierce advocates of the Jewish people’s aspiration to return to the land of your forefathers to claim your own new birth of freedom in your beloved homeland.”
Former President Obama did serious damage to this special bond, which the Trump administration is trying to repair, not only through words but through deeds.
Turning to the subject of Iran, whose regime Vice President Pence called dangerous, dictatorial and brutal, the vice president said the United States would withdraw from the disastrous nuclear deal immediately if its defects are not fixed. “The United States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” he vowed. “Beyond the nuclear deal, we will also no longer tolerate Iran’s support of terrorism, or its brutal attempts to suppress its own people.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warmly welcomed the vice president. Arab-Israeli lawmakers, on the other hand, stood up in protest during his Knesset speech, holding up signs reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” They were escorted out of the chamber by security to avoid disruption of Vice President Pence’s speech.
Ayman Odeh, an Arab-Israeli lawmaker who leads the Joint List party, an amalgam of four previously separate political parties purporting to represent the Palestinian citizens of Israel, said on Saturday that Vice President Pence was “a dangerous racist whose whole reason for being here is in order to damage any chance of peace.” Odeh piled on with more insults on Monday, when he branded the vice president a “a dangerous man with a messianic vision” sent by “an even more dangerous man, a political pyromaniac, a racist and interferer.”
Odeh is the real “political pyromaniac” and “racist.” Despite paying lip service at times to non-violence, Odeh has supported the violent First Intifada. “I cannot tell the nation how to struggle, where and which target to throw the rock. I do not put red lines on the Arab Palestinian nation,” he said back in 2015. Odeh also has clung to the myth that the Palestinians are “indigenous” to the Holy Land, when in actuality they are mostly descendants of 19th century and 20th century Arab immigrants from multiple countries in the region. Odeh rejects the idea of a Jewish state of Israel. Indeed, he opposes any reductions in the budgets of Israeli state-funded bodies that reject Israel as a Jewish state or observe the Palestinian Nakba (the “Catastrophe” in Arabic, marking Israeli Independence Day as a day of mourning).
The birth of the modern-day state of Israel was a blessing, not a curse as the Palestinian leaders want the world to believe. As Vice President Pence said, “The miracle of Israel is an inspiration to the world.”