(January 21, 2018 / JNS)
Ahead of a two-day trip to Israel, Vice President Mike Pence visited neighboring Jordan and Egypt in an attempt to strengthen U.S. ties with the two Arab allies, and to reassure the countries’ leaders of America’s role as a peace broker between Israelis and Palestinians.
Pence met with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday for talks focused on President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize that city as Israel’s capital.
Following a meeting Saturday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to facilitating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and to preserving the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem—including the Temple Mount, site of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock monument—that are currently administered by Jordan.
“The United States of America is deeply committed to restarting the peace process in the Middle East,” Pence said before departing for Jordan, adding that “we have come to no final resolution about boundaries or other issues that will be negotiated.” He said President Trump would support a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians “if the parties agree.”
Pence pointed to Trump’s efforts to forge stronger ties with El-Sisi in his first year in office, “after a time when our countries seemed to be drifting apart” during the tenure of the Obama administration. He told El-Sisi that the U.S. stands “shoulder to shoulder with you and Egypt in fighting against terrorism.”
Jordan—which has a large population of Palestinians—is a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid. Both the Jordanian and Egyptian governments have strong security ties with Israel, while support for Israel on the Arab street in both countries is exceedingly low.
Many within the Arab world were angered by Trump’s policy changes on Jerusalem last December—moves that were announced at the White House media briefing with Pence standing behind the president.
On Monday, Pence will be welcomed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem in an official ceremony. He will then address Israel’s Knesset legislature and later participate in a private dinner with Netanyahu and his wife Sara.
On Tuesday, Pence will meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center and visit the Western Wall holy site before departing Israel in the late afternoon.