CMEP Bulletin: Pence’s Role in Mideast Policy Under Scrutiny
Mike Pence’s Faith Drives His Support for Israel. Does It Drive Mideast Policy? [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]
“Pence’s first visit to Israel as vice president led some to ask to what degree are his views — and the administration’s policies — shaped by the brand of evangelical Christianity that invests his faith? … Christian faith leaders declined to meet with Pence during his visits to Egypt and Israel; various reports framed their objections as a reaction to policies they feared put religious imperatives before meeting the needs of Arabs in the region, including the Christian minority. Mae Elise Cannon, the director of Churches for Middle East Peace, an umbrella group that includes most of the Christian denominations in Israel and the West Bank [sic], told JTA that local Christians were wary of how Pence framed his support for Israel as a matter of Christian faith. ‘They didn’t meet with him because they don’t view him as an honest broker or an unbiased broker,’ she said,” according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Palestinian Christians Slam Pence’s Pro-Israel Faith [AP/The Times of Israel]
“Palestinian Christians say US Vice President Mike Pence’s brand of evangelical Christianity, with its fervent embrace of modern-day Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, lacks their faith’s compassion and justice, including for those who have lived under Israeli occupation for half a century. … In biblical Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, Mayor Anton Salman said Pence’s comments contradict his declared aim of helping Christians in the Middle East. ‘He would need to change his thoughts and behavior… and recognize the rights of Arab Palestinian Christians who are the people of this land, to support their rights to have their independence, their freedom and East Jerusalem as our capital,’ said Salman, a Roman Catholic. Christians make up a small minority of the overwhelmingly Muslim Palestinian population in the West Bank, but relations between the two religious groups are typically cordial and tolerant,” according to The Times of Israel.
Trump’s Hard-Line Israel Position Exports U.S. Culture War Abroad [The New York Times]
“Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and threatening to close the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, though never quite explained in foreign policy terms, resonate domestically. … But the Trump administration’s policies, while lauded by American evangelical groups, are opposed by Palestinian Christians and have been questioned by Pope Francis. Those policies, in other words, align poorly with either the religious solidarity or foreign policy realism that supposedly animated them, but align perfectly with American identity politics. … These policies meet rising conservative demands that the United States abandon its traditional neutrality on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and instead side overtly with Israel. … Mr. Pence’s religiosity may embody the old mode of American support for Israel, driven by groups with strong views on the conflict itself. That still exists, but is increasingly subsumed by a broader, blunter worldview that treats the Israeli-Palestinian issue as an extension of another conflict that can seem just as intractable: American partisanship,” according to The New York Times’ Max Fisher.
Arab Leaders: We Can Resume Peace Talks Despite Jerusalem Controversy [The Jerusalem Post]
The Jerusalem Post reports, “Arab leaders in Davos expressed optimism Wednesday about the possibility of renewing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, despite controversy over the recent US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. King Abdullah II of Jordan told Maariv during the Davos conference that, following US President Donald Trump’s announcement and intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, he would rather see the glass half full and focus on relations with Israel and how these ties can promote peace. … Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir told Maariv that ‘[we] must wait for the American initiative,’ and that ‘if it will have components that both parties can accept, it will be possible to renew negotiations despite the current crisis surrounding the Trump statement.’”
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