Vice President Mike Pence is ending his current round of visits to the region (after visiting Egypt, Jordan and Israel). His visits were accompanied by skepticism as to whether his goal of containing Arab reactions to President Donald Trump’s decision acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was met.
During his meeting with King Abdullah II, Pence reaffirmed the U.S. stance and described the decision as historic. He simultaneously tried to amend trust in the bilateral U.S.-Jordanian relationship and isolate the Jerusalem file from the rest of the regional files, even the peace settlement itself, as he reminded the king of the coalition between the two countries in the fight against terrorism and their joint interests in the region. At the same time, he brought up the issue of Iranian power in Syria, describing it as a joint challenge for both America and Arab countries. The Jordanian response was clear, as the king affirmed the significance of Jerusalem, which primarily serves as part of the bundle of solutions geared toward a peace settlement to the crisis and which is also part of creating stability in the entire region. One can’t discuss regional cooperation if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict file is neglected.
Furthermore, the king asked Pence (according to informed and trusted sources) to end the Israeli provocations toward Palestinians, to put an end to the issue of settlements, and to change the inhumane way Israeli soldiers treat Palestinians. He also asked Pence to exert pressure on the Israeli government to release the Palestinian teenager Ahed al-Tamimi, whose detention by Israeli soldiers stirred bouts of anger and widespread Arab condemnation.
The king’s response echoed that made by the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Pence presumably didn’t expect to hear anything different. However, he was seeking to calm the atmosphere with Jordan and Egypt and to limit the effect the conflict surrounding Jerusalem is having on the relationship between the two sides.
The most dangerous part of Pence’s discourse, in my opinion, is the attempt to pass the notion that America is obliged to respect the role of Jordan and its sponsorship of Islamic sites in Jerusalem. This statement distorts the Jordanian role, as the role of the Hashemites and Jordan in the sponsorship of the Islamic sites is tied to a strategic and symbolic vision that does not coincide with the acknowledgment of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The Jordanian stance has two sides to it: The first is the position of some Arab countries which deem Iran as the No. 1 danger and which consider the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Jerusalem file as secondary issues, which turns into acceptance of the American decision at no political cost. The second concerns nearby countries which accompanied the American escalation with full force, like Iran and Turkey, but on a verbal level (they were just talks).
The decision-making cabinet in Amman is completely aware of the fact that there are countries that act according to their interests and their security considerations. Jordanians and Palestinians are the only ones who are directly suffering from the outcome of the American decision, but they must accurately assess the situation.
The Palestinian Authority didn’t welcome Pence’s visit. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in Europe in an attempt to win a European decision on Jerusalem. This constitutes a new attempt to confront the American siege and the Arab-Palestinian strategic exposure. The question remains: What would that actually entail, especially when considering the conflict?
The issue at hand is not easy to solve, and we, as Jordanians and Palestinians, have to reconsider choices in a pragmatic and rational way. The strategic Arab exposure and the balance of power prompt us to deal with a dangerous American administration that has a bias toward Israel. Pence's visit proves this reality and doesn’t change it. It reinforces the conviction that we are now facing an American-Israeli front which is governed by an extremist religious vision regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This should prompt us to make decisions using our minds and not our hearts in managing the upcoming phase.