Jordan was not originally on Vice President Mike Pence’s Mideast schedule when the trip was planned for mid-December. When the trip had to be rescheduled (due to the tax cut vote) for mid-January, a visit to Amman was added.
In my new column for Fox News, I explain why, describe the strains that have emerged in the U.S.-Jordanian alliance, and offer some thoughts on the way forward to strengthen this vitally important relationship.
But first, a look at the current itinerary. On Friday night, Air Force Two will depart Washington, headed for the epicenter, including stops in Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
- Saturday: Vice President Pence will land in Cairo and meet with President el-Sisi.
- Sunday: The V.P. will fly to Amman and meet with King Abdullah II.
- Sunday evening: The V.P. will fly to Israel.
- Monday and Tuesday: The V.P. will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, visit Yad Vashem and the Western Wall, and speak to the Knesset.
Please pray for:
- The safety of Mike and Karen Pence, their advisors and their delegation.
- The V.P. to have wisdom to know how best to strengthen U.S. relations with Egypt and Jordan, as well as with Israel.
- The Palestinian leadership to reconsider their boycott of the V.P.’s trip, and to choose to engage in dialogue with him instead to make their case directly.
Thanks — and here’s the column….
Something significant happened since Vice President Mike Pence rescheduled his trip to the Middle East from December to the end of this week. No longer is he visiting only Israel and Egypt. He is going to Jordan as well.
It is the right move – indeed, Amman should have been on his original itinerary – but it’s now an act of damage control.
Not only were West Bank and Gaza Palestinians furious in the wake of President Trump’s Dec. 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Most Jordanians – some 70 percent of whom are Palestinians – were outraged as well.
How President Trump’s decision was made, why it was made, and when it was announced have thus created serious strains in the U.S.-Jordanian alliance. Pence will have to handle the matter deftly.
To be sure, friends will not always agree on every issue. Washington and Amman have weathered deep disagreements in the past and still strengthened their relationship.
That said, Jerusalem touches deep into the Jordanian religious, social and political psyche. Until 1967, the Hashemite Kingdom governed the eastern portion of the holy city, including the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque. The loss of East Jerusalem to the Israelis during the Six Day War remains a bitter wound.
So despite President Trump’s nuanced statement about how the boundaries of Jerusalem remain to be negotiated (thus keeping the door open to a possible Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem), and the importance of protecting the status quo of the holy sites, the issue isn’t going away any time soon.
This is especially true given that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has given increasingly heated statements against the Trump administration and is boycotting the vice president’s visit.
Pence should be prepared to hear frank talk from Jordanian King Abdullah when he arrives. In return, let us hope he is prepared to share with the king a clear and convincing American initiative to help Palestinians and Israelis get back on the road to making a fair and final peace treaty, and that he is authorized to announce specific policies designed to bolster the U.S.-Jordanian strategic alliance….
[Photo: Mr. Pence’s first meeting as Vice President with Jordan’s King Abdullah in February at the Naval Observatory in Washington.]