True believers want peace for Jerusalem, pope tells imam

Brunilde Fioravanti
Gennaio 20, 2018

"The decision to cut funding to UNRWA and to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital puts pressure on King Abdullah to distance himself from the U.S., and Israel, but of course that is much easier said than done". But instead of waiting patiently for the Palestinians to cool off, the administration is throwing gasoline on the fire.

Pence was to have visited the region in mid-December, but rescheduled as Trump's dramatic policy shift on Jerusalem just a few days earlier triggered Arab condemnation and region-wide protests.

Jane Eisner, editor in chief of The Forward - and a strong proponent of Palestinian statehood - blasted Abbas in a January 17 editorial. Pence's office responded with a combative statement accusing the Palestinians of missing another opportunity to pursue peace.

Abbas subsequently retreated from that posture, embracing renewed talks under the Trump administration. They never believed the Palestinians would agree to any type of peace, and for some in the right-wing camp holding on to the West Bank - i.e. biblical Judea and Samaria - is more important than anything else. Its leaders fear Israel will trigger a third exodus of Palestinians across the Jordan river, and sabotage the already fragile demographic balance of the kingdom. Arafat's wife, Suha, was infamous for her spurious allegation that Israel somehow was poisoning young Palestinians. The groups and the Israeli government were especially outraged that Abbas rejected Jewish connections to the land of Israel and claimed that Zionism was "a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism". "We are working very hard to make sure the United Nations member states adhere to worldwide law and their own obligations in accordance with the commitments they have made in United Nations resolutions".

Analysts agreed that neither Israel nor the United States would accept a new sponsor for the peace process in the Middle East, particularly after Trump declared that he is preparing the deal of the century, which was considered by Abbas as "the slap of the century".

Israeli leaders, opposition leaders, condemned the speech as hateful and false.

White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, U.S. Ambassador to Israel and former Trump bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, as well as Mideast negotiator and former Trump lawyer Jason Greenblatt are said to have pushed for the accelerated timeline.

Into this environment steps Pence - the worst of all Trump administration officials to send to Israel at such a time.

In both of these addresses, Abbas rebuked the United States and President Donald J. Trump, as well as attacked the right of Israel to exist. It is not surprising that Palestinians are refusing to meet with him.

However, Palestinian analysts did not consider the recommendations of the Central Council powerful enough to cope with Trump's Jerusalem decision or Israel's occupation of the holy city. But why risk it with such a high-profile visit?

Musa Shteiwi, director of Jordan University's Center for Strategic Studies, said Amman can not afford to disengage from the U.S. But, he explained, Pence needs to "carefully listen" to what U.S. allies are saying about the risk involved in Trump's Jerusalem decision. "The U.S administration uses pressure, blackmail and threats against the Palestinians who are simply seeking freedom and dignity while it rewards Israel".

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