Pence check outs Western Wall in the middle of stress with Palestinians

Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018|3:46 p.m.

JERUSALEM– Vice President Mike Pence put his hand on the hallowed Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday as he concluded a four-day journey to the Mideast that ended with Palestinians still fuming over the Trump administration’s decision to acknowledge the city as Israel’s capital.

On a solemn see to the holiest website where Jews can hope, Pence tucked a small white note of prayer in the wall’s cracks after touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Throughout his very first journey to the region as vice president, Pence looked for to employ the help of Arab leaders in Egypt and Jordan on the Mideast peace process and used a high-profile speech to the Knesset to declare President Donald Trump’s choice to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital and speed up plans to open a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

But Pence’s willingness to meet with Palestinian leaders– he told The Associated Press in an interview that the “door’s open”– was rebuffed by President Mahmoud Abbas, who canceled conferences last month and provided a not-so-subtle snub by overlapping with Pence in Jordan from Saturday evening until midday Sunday.

Numerous Arab lawmakers interfered with the start of Pence’s speech to the Knesset, holding indications that stated, “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.”

Much of Pence’s trip concentrated on working with U.S. partners to counter terrorism and make the case for persecuted Christian minorities in the Middle East. But quickly before Air Force Two departed Jerusalem, Abbas’ judgment Fatah party required a general strike to protest Trump’s acknowledgment of Jerusalem as the capital– another escalation after the Trump administration had raised hopes of a cooling-down duration.

“The journey made zero development in bringing the Palestinians back to the table,” Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a Brand-new American Security, composed in an email. “In fact, it probably only solidified the Palestinian position.”

Aaron David Miller, a Wilson Center identified fellow who worked as a State Department Middle East analyst and negotiator, said the journey should not be judged in regards to achievements. Pence wasn’t going to make any developments, mainly since of the Palestinian freeze-out after Trump’s announcement, he said.

In settlements like those wished for between the Israelis and Palestinians, Miller stated, the third party in those talks needs to prod and cajole using both honey and vinegar.

However, Miller stated, “we have actually taken the application of the honey to an extreme.”

A senior White House official said top arbitrators for the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, a senior consultant and the president’s son-in-law, and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s unique representative for international negotiations, had not spoken with Palestinian leaders considering that right before Trump’s Dec. 6 statement. The official wasn’t authorized to describe personal considerations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump’s statement in December declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital has actually produced reverberations through the region and countered years of U.S. diplomacy and international agreement that Jerusalem’s status need to be decided in negotiations in between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have actually pre-emptively rejected any peace proposition drifted by the Trump administration amidst concerns it would fall far listed below their expect an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, lands captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

Pence reiterated throughout his travels that the United States would accept a two-state option– if both celebrations agreed– and would respect the status quo with regard to holy sites and make no determination on final status with regard to boundaries.

Jerusalem’s status, a central problem in the decadeslong Israeli-Palestinian conflict, remained at the forefront.

Throughout his check out, Pence expressed a strong connection to Israel, many noticeably at the Western Wall.

Wearing a Jewish skullcap on his head, he held his right hand on the wall briefly, his eyes closed.

Pence assistants called it a “individual see,” in the same manner where Trump hoped there during his see to Israel in 2015. The vice president was signed up with by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the wall, and Mordechai “Suli” Elias, the director general of the Western Wall Heritage Structure.

Ambassador Dennis Ross, who has actually worked for Republican and Democratic administrations and, most recently, was a special assistant to President Barack Obama, stated Pence highlighted the administration’s outreach to Israel. “The symbolism of this administration in regards to its dedication to Israel is truly quite amazing,” Ross said. “Importance counts.”

Ross said the Trump administration has put itself in a “excellent position” where it can ask Israel to take “difficult actions” on the peace issue, but he said it was tough to know whether it would make the ask.

Pence, meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, stated the decision on the capital had eliminated a thorny problem, and “set the table for the opportunity to progress in meaningful negotiations to achieve an enduring peace.”

Rivlin responded with an Arabic expression, “Inshallah,” adding it indicated “with God’s aid.”

Associated Press writers Aron Heller in Jerusalem and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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